The Future Of Privacy: Look At Who's Missing From The Discussion

from the and-there's-your-answer dept

Earlier today, I attended the rather enjoyable lunchtime "salon" on Privacy 2009: The Year Ahead, put together by Tech Policy Central and held at Facebook's headquarters. The discussion, moderated by Kara Swisher, involved Facebook's chief privacy officer, Chris Kelly, along with Chris Hoffnagle of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology and Jim Dempsey from the Center for Democracy & Technology. Kara (as always) did a good job trying to stir up a little controversy, but, to be honest, there wasn't all that much that the folks on the panel disagreed about. About the strongest disagreement came over the question of anonymity -- with Chris Kelly admitting that anonymity is an important right, but not one that Facebook wanted people to exercise on Facebook.

But, to be honest, it was that lack of controversy that basically highlighted in absentia the real privacy problems the industry is facing. It is not, as some of the media hype would have you believe, that internet companies like Facebook and Google are the biggest threats to individual privacy these days. Both companies are pretty explicit in terms of what they do with your data, and you have tremendous freedom and control in terms of what information and data you provide to those services. The real privacy risks come from the companies in the background -- the ones who people don't directly interact with and who don't make their policies clear. And, of course, those are the companies who don't show up for panel discussions about privacy. It includes the ISPs, who have access to everything you do online and have been profiting off your clickstream data for years without you knowing it, and the big data mining companies, like Axciom and Choicepoint who (as Chris Hoofnagle pointed out) don't just sell your data to marketing and advertising firms, but to the government as well.

It's become popular in the media to make a big deal out of the threats that companies like Google and Facebook present to privacy, and even some regulators have been sniffing around that space -- but that's only because people can actually see what's happening with those companies (and both take the issue of privacy pretty seriously -- though, both could do a better job in some cases). The problem is that most people don't even realize that the big data mining companies are doing much more with their data every day, and there's less attention paid because it all happens behind the scenes.

Privacy is definitely an important issue, but the panel discussion itself wasn't quite as interesting as recognizing who was conspicuously absent from the discussion.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2009 @ 8:14pm

    FYI - ChoicePoint got bought out...

    A little off topic, but...
    In September of 2008, Reed Elsevier closed the deal on ChoicePoint. ChoicePoint is now a wholly owned division of LexisNexis (also owned by Reed Elsevier). Doesn't mean they've stopped selling data, but I thought you should be aware.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Now Pay Up or Else, Jan 6th, 2009 @ 8:42pm

    You Stole My Data

    Think I'll start charging for the use of my data. I own the copyright on my data and, quite frankly, I'm tired of big business stealing from me. So - I propose an organization whose sole purpose is to collect royalties from those that steal personal data for profit and then distribute it to those from which data was stolen.

    I'm looking forward to my first big check.

     

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  3.  
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    Chunky Vomit, Jan 6th, 2009 @ 10:55pm

    Re: You Stole My Data

    Last I checked, facts can't be copyrighted. Therefore, your name, address, phone number, social security number, the color of your hair, the things you buy, the length of your manhood, the size of your womanhood, and anything else you can put on this list are technically public domain.

    And out of that list of things, most of them are things that you put out there yourself just by choosing to live on the grid.

     

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  4.  
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    Benjamin Wright, Jan 7th, 2009 @ 5:43am

    Contract law for privacy

    Forget copyright law as an instrument of privacy. What about contract law? When private data are stored in, for example, an electronic medical record, why can't the patient unilaterally insert terms of service (like an end user license agreement) that forbid undesired data access and use? I argue the patient can effectively do this. Contract law is the under-utilized engine of privacy. --Ben [My ideas here aren't legal advice for any particular situation, just fodder for discussion.]

     

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  5.  
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    Curious, Jan 7th, 2009 @ 9:33am

    So if I were to....

    Lets say I apply a "terms of use" statement to my web site, that forbids search engines from listing it.
    Could I then sue Google for a contract violation should it show up in a web search?

     

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  6.  
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    Bill D, Jan 7th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    Biggest offenders on privacy

    The biggest offender is the government. I don't worry about Google nearly as much as I worry about this country turning into a police state. Too much power corrupts and they've had too much power for years now.

     

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  7.  
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    Benjamin Wright, Jan 7th, 2009 @ 5:05pm

    Re: So if I were to....

    Curious: Suzanne Shell published terms of use on her web site saying that anyone copying material from the site agrees by contract to pay her a bunch of money. Then she sued Internet Archive for using a spider to copy material from her site. At first Internet Archive fought the suit. Then it settled with Ms. Shell and expressed regret for copying her material without her consent. --Ben

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2009 @ 6:36pm

    So you say certain folks failed to attend. Were they even invited to this little salon?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Shell v. American Family Rights Association, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 7:49pm

    Shell v. American Family Rights Association et al
    EasyEdit
    (What's this?) What is the EasyEdit button? This website gets better when people like you add to it. Just click the EasyEdit button to start. (help)
    Last update: No updates (content history | content tools) (help)
    Keyword tags: None
    Plaintiff: Suzanne Shell
    Defendant: American Family Rights Association, William O. Tower, Ann Tower, Leonard Henderson, Susan Adams Jackson, Cletus Kiefer, Families At Risk Defense Alliance, Francine Renee Cygan, Mark Cygan, Illinois Family Advocacy Coalition, Dorothy Kernaghan-Baez, Dennis Hinger, Aimee Dutkiewicz, Thomas Dutkiewicz, William Wiseman, Wiseman Studios, Ann Durand, Brenda Swallow, Kathy Tilley, Dee Contreras, Randall Blair, Lloyd Phillips, Ringo Kamens, Cheryl Barnes, CPSWatch, Inc., Desere' Clabo, Sarah Thompson, Georgia Family Rights, Inc., National Association of Family Advocates and Connecticut DCF Watch

    Case Number: 1:2009cv00309
    Filed: February 13, 2009

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    NONAMEASIDONTWANTTOBESUEDBYSHELLAGAINLMAO, Mar 10th, 2009 @ 3:41pm

    Re: SHELL SHELL SHELL

    THE ENTIRE CLAIM IS FALSE AND WILL BE DISMISSED...COUNTERSUITS ARE UNDERWAY (I WAS THE CHICKEN FARM )

    CAN YOU BELIEVE SHE FAILED TO SERVE ANY OF THE DEFENDANTS OTHER THAN VIA E-MAIL ACCOUNTS THAT MOST DONT USE ANYMORE? FEDERAL CLAIMS MAY BE FILED VIA ELECTRONICALLY BUT YOU STILL NEED TO PROPERLY SERVE DEFENDENTA HOW ELSE CAN THE DISPUTE THE CLAIM...

    A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME SHE NOTIFIED THE COURT ALL PARTIES WERE PROPERLY SERVED ) I THINK THAT IS CONTEMT OF COURT LMAO

    ONE DAY SHE WILL LEARN DONT PLAY WITH PIT BULLS WHEN YOU ARE JUST A POODLE

     

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  11.  
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    Jim, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:04pm

    good

     

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  12.  
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    Jim, Apr 16th, 2009 @ 6:05pm

    blog post concerning privacy/VRM

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Renee, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 11:56am

    Re: shell

    I am one of the supposed named defendants and I have YET to be served. I have no idea what the case is even about. So if this person is saying she served me she is not telling you the truth. She did attempt to send me an attachment via email but I had no idea what it was about and given her track record of decietful behavior I do not trust her and therefor did not open the attachment but rather blocked her email address. I rarely if ever even use the account she sent the attachment to so sending anything there was pointless. She has also named illinois family advocacy coalition which we no longer under my control and defunct. She has named my soon to be ex husband Mark whom I have been seperated from for over a year now. Should she employ PROPER means and obtain effective service on me I will gladly respond.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Clueless Berk, Jun 20th, 2009 @ 5:33am

    Don't be a moron...

    When you are involved in a LAWSUIT, an easy way to LOSE is to yap on about it all over the frickin' Internet. Judges hate that.

    Don't be stupid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Renee, Aug 4th, 2009 @ 9:25pm

    Re: Don't be a moron...

    Then I guess she has as good as lost because she is the one yapping all over the internet. Proper service is proper service period. Claiming in court that you served someone when you have not is perjury. I am not even sure the lawsuit even really exists and until I am SERVED I just couldn't care less.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Ol Guy, Feb 17th, 2010 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Don't be a moron...

    As far as I know Suzanne Shell's suit is still going strong

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    William Wiseman, Mar 31st, 2010 @ 7:57pm

    March 31, 2010 Breaking News- suzanne shell Owner Of FamilyRightsAdvocacyIMPROVEMENTProject and www.Profane-justice.org and Badadvocates.com Has Lost Her Lawsuit against Wiseman studios and william wiseman and American Family Rights Association http://familyrights.us/news/archive/2010/march/397.pdf

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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