More Privacy Laws Don't Mean More Privacy

from the think-this-through dept

There’s evidence that we’re about to see a big new push in “privacy” laws at both the state and federal level, and while privacy is important, these laws often do the exact opposite of what they’re intended to do. They, like so many laws, do a lot more to give politicians headlines so they can say they protected constituents’ privacy, but the reality is quite different. A recent Forbes article explored what a mess privacy regulations have become, basically creating huge bureaucracies in order to comply with the laws, but having little to do with actually protecting privacy. Instead, the added regulations have just created the need for people to sign various consent forms that they don’t understand, and limited certain types of useful information sharing, while making it that much more difficult to accomplish certain basic tasks. And, on top of everything, in some cases it’s actually increasing the privacy risk, by requiring the collection of certain “private” info in a database that now makes it that much more vulnerable.

No one denies that protecting privacy is important — but that’s not what’s being done. Instead, politicians are rushing through legislation to make it look like privacy is being protected, when all it really does is create extra burdens on both companies and users without any corresponding privacy benefit.

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Comments on “More Privacy Laws Don't Mean More Privacy”

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Steve R. (profile) says:

Its the Fault of the Companies

Well it is not often that I disagree with Mike, but ….

Mike writes: “when all it really does is create extra burdens on both companies and users without any corresponding privacy benefit.” The fault is with the companies, if they want they could give us, at least in theory, real privacy. There is nothing preventing them from not sharing data. The are willfully distributing our data, so they are free to stop.

We don’t need government involvement to create the “extra burden and expense”. Companies could save this extra burden and expense by simply not sharing/trading/selling private data, by not sending us junk mail, by not telemarketing. Lets recognize that many so-called onerous regulations are really the result of willful disingenuous business practices.

Additionally, the dismal state of our privacy laws is because corporate lobbyists water them down to the point that they are useless. Disclosing the “whole” story requires an acknowledgment that many of our laws that don’t work as expected are the consequence of corporate interference. Does that excuse the government; NO.

Lets look at it this way, if corporations are not self disciplined to act responsibly then they deserve to be regulated. Period.

Too bad our politician have “sold out” the American people.

Phil says:

“these laws often do the exact opposite of what they’re intended to do”

A perfect case in point is HIPAA. Prior to HIPAA, when most patients were worried about medical records privacy, their number one concern was what their insurance company and their employer might know about their health conditions. HIPAA specifically allows full access to medical records for insurance companies and employers who pay for health insurance. With HIPAA, its now illegal under federal law to even accidentally reveal information about you to your neighbor, but then your neighbor was probably never very interested in your medical records in the first place. The restrictions on accidental release of information are reasonable in themselves, but the harsh penalties and stern posturing by the government on the issue were really just to distract people from the fact that legislators had given away the farm on the very issue that most patients actually cared about.

Sean T Henry (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There is a new “Red Flags” rule they are pushing to fight identity theft and it applies to any business that is considered a lender. It does not like its a bad thing but they consider a lender to be anyone who provides services or goods and does not receive full payment at the time of service. This pushes all medical offices to have to have a red flag privacy officer, a policy, and retain a copy of a photo ID.

This rule has been delayed about three times after its effective date. It will not help much to stop Insurance theft, since most of the cases I have seen come from the hospital and most (non-private) are required to admit a patient. So if they do not want to provide proof of who they are they will not have too.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m with Phil. These laws are not only ineffective, but suffer from Regulatory Capture. The lobby groups from the very people we are concerned about get involved in the lawmaking, and provide loopholes for themselves.

In the end, we end up with legal cover for the things we are trying to stop.

Consider the case of CAN SPAM. Has it canned your spam? I get a bunch of BS spam now, which is in full compliance with CAN SPAM, and the jerks who send it are very proud of themselves when they include that fact in the footer: “We’re not jerks, this kind of spam is totally legal.”

Derick (profile) says:

Coorperate Sellout.

As it stands now I work for a local Corporation. I am sure most people who have been in the working world have.

When small companies rot.. its not good it stinks.. Its a lot of suffering for its clients, its employees and everyone.. However, when big companies rot.. well.. its the difference in size..Its one thing if a rat or something dies.. Smells bad and you have to find it and dispose of the corpse.. But, when a dead rotting whale corpses washes ashore.. it sorta ruins your beach trip..(or makes it if your a biologist).

However, the point I am getting at is at the corporation I work for.. I’m on the absolute bottom end. No one cares where I am at. All the rules, regulations, procedures and morals are irrelevant.. All it takes is one customer making a manager mad enough at my local store.. and that manager will bend over backwards lower prices, or make something free.. At the top.. our Regional managers are so ****ed in the head they *enjoy* abusing corporate power and complaining about nothing. Some of them just *look* like sleeze balls..

What I am getting at is this is just a hardware/home improvement store.. You bet *if* this was an internet provider we’d do the same thing.

Our managers already do whatever it takes to get their own bonus. They expect us to work hard just because we are getting paid. (Yes. I do understand when you work for this corporation you are being paid to work however, how hard would you honestly work at a job when you will never be promoted, never get a raise, and never even be recognized for the good you do).

Everyone gets *one* raise.. *once* a year. Sure it can be “high” or “low” depending.. But, unless your full time you Can’t get *any* promotion.

My point in ranting about how my corporation treats its employee’s poorly is to make one point. They do it for the bonus. They know that as long as we are getting promotions or raises, the store has more cash. Corporate up top gets a bigger bonus. The managers below get a smaller. but, still decent enough for them bonus.

the tops of the company at the Internet service providers probably make an enormous bonus off of all the data thats sold. For that matter it probably goes entirely straight to the bonus of the managers.

I do believe in Capitolism.. However, I do lose faith in consumers. *We* as consumers should be responsible for protecting ourselves. If you don’t like walmarts services go shop somewhere else. Find another local store and do price checks. Start buying whats on sale/cheaper at walmart.. And buy whats cheaper at piggly wiggly at piggly wiggly.

While its harder with issues such as privacy to tell who is selling you out…. As consumers we have to show the market what *we* want. A competitive market does not work in an environment where consumers are complacent being screwed over.

While its not always as easy as picking up the news paper and checking to see what companies sell you out.. Why not start forums and boards to make people aware of which ones are worst?

With all this being said, I am not defending the companies. I am not defending the corporation I work for nor, am I defending the loss of privacy.

I am only stating that we live in a competition based world where people do whatever it takes to get their cash… We have to show them that *if* they want ours.. they have to play by *our* rules.

Thats all that can really be done about it… Educate the people. Although sadly.. it seems people are becoming complacent and don’t really care what happens.. That (to me) is an educational problem.. People don’t *want* to learn people don’t *want* to have knowledge.. they are content wasting their lives away watching the newest reality tv show.(no offense to any highly intelligent people who watch tv here). however, so long as people are content in their own little lives with their own little worlds.. Not much will change.

Karl says:

Again, there seems to be an assumption that all regulation is bad and it’s impossible to reform.

The alternative are these “self-regulatory” privacy practices (currently being proposed by AT&T and Verizon) which are an even larger joke. Where’s the answer?

Either government acts to protect consumer privacy or they don’t.

If they don’t, what stops abuses? Company good will?

If they do, what needs to be changed to make privacy rules work?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Again, there seems to be an assumption that all regulation is bad and it’s impossible to reform.

Not saying that all regulation is bad… just recognizing the reality of regulatory capture: which is that these laws are almost all written not to protect people’s privacy.

If they do, what needs to be changed to make privacy rules work?

I don’t know that I have an answer… but I worry about laws being passed for the sake of grandstanding…

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