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.

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Companies: facebook, google

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Comments on “The Future Of Privacy: Look At Who's Missing From The Discussion”

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17 Comments
Now Pay Up or Else says:

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.

Chunky Vomit says:

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.

Benjamin Wright (profile) says:

Re: Re: 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.]

Benjamin Wright (profile) says:

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

Shell v. American Family Rights Association says:

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

NONAMEASIDONTWANTTOBESUEDBYSHELLAGAINLMAO says:

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

Renee says:

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.

Renee says:

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.

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