(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
canada, privacy, regulation


Just Because A Site Has A Privacy Policy, Doesn't Mean It Will Keep Your Data Private

from the that's-how-it-works dept

Last week there was a fair amount of coverage of the fact that Canadian regulatory agency, CRTC, had revealed private data on its website. That story, by itself, is interesting enough, but the followup from the CRTC was even more interesting. It claimed that since the CRTC's privacy policy stated that any data you gave it was a part of the public record, it was fine:
Note that all information you provide as part of a public process, except information granted confidentiality, whether sent by postal mail, facsimile, e-mail or through the Commission's website at www.crtc.gc.ca, becomes part of a publicly accessible file and will be posted on the Commission's website. This information includes your personal information, such as your full name, e-mail address, postal/street address, telephone and facsimile number(s), and any other personal information you provide.
Fair enough, right? After all, the privacy policy states right out that the data will be revealed. Except... as we've noted in the past, most people falsely believe that if a site has any privacy policy, it means their data will be safe. This situation highlights this exactly. Most people assumed that the existence of a privacy policy itself meant the data would be kept private -- even though the policy itself says otherwise. Most people never bother to read the policy, and assume privacy policy = privacy. The truth, of course, was that the CRTC's "privacy policy" was actually a "non-privacy policy," but most people had no idea.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2009 @ 6:02pm

    Off topic

    Such omissions from the fact often come back to haunt the service provider.

    You can divert attention for a short while, but even being a Government Agency doesn't put the group above the law.

    A slightly amusing fact is that SARS was an issue five years ago, oddly, almost to the day. If I recall, then the Whitehouse was fighting torture and prisoner abuse. Ultimately, SARS never came, but the focus by news organizations overtook the public's attention. Much like today's Swine Flu. Pig Flu. How inventive and convenient that the contextual subject matter is the same and they desire similar results. I guess when it gets too hot, the puppetmasters drum up a little flu-based fear.

    The CRTC should consider what happened to Google when it didn't have a privacy policy.

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

  • icon
    Nick (profile), 27 Apr 2009 @ 6:27pm

    They should just call it a Publicity Policy.

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

  • identicon
    Reena, 27 Apr 2009 @ 11:13pm

    Really its a very helpful article as everybody deals with such issue on a daily basis. I like your writeup and will come back to read such more informative content.

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

  • icon
    Zaphod (profile), 28 Apr 2009 @ 3:50am

    My policy...

    Ya know, since I use google adsense on my site, perhaps I should start my privacy policy with the simple line...

    "CAVEAT: Usage of this site veritably guarantees some of your information, will be disclosed to me, and some third parties."

    Then they can weed through the morass of sargassosistic legaleese knowing that at least they have been warned...

    And I just did this before hitting the submit button here.

    Honesty can be so refreshing.

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

  • icon
    Steve R. (profile), 28 Apr 2009 @ 5:13am

    Everything is for Sale

    Virtually every privacy policy that I have read has an intro phrase that implies how they will "protect" your data that is immediately followed by another phrase that they will "share" your data with anyone who asks (pays).

    You are automatically opted into this policy. To opt out you have to do all sorts of convoluted things, such as manually entering your information and using snail mail. So here we have computers that make things easy to give your data away; but when it comes to opting out, the companies make it as difficult as possible.

    As an interesting aside. Today I received my copy of Forbes. One of the lead articles was the debate over "your" medical records. My first thought, what does Forbes mean by "your" medical records??? Companies are routinely and with greater vigor claiming that they "own" all data that is in their possession.

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

  • identicon
    another mike, 28 Apr 2009 @ 3:46pm

    google's privacy policy

    Didn't this come up before when some privacy rights group was braying about Google's front page not having a link to their privacy policy? It's Google, if anyone wanted to know their privacy policy they'd just Google it. Speaking of that, that's exactly what Google should've done. Made it a link to search themselves for "google privacy policy". lol

    Anyway, unless you've read through the policy, the TOS, and the EULA, you really have no idea what you've signed up for. The webmaster/programmer/site owner could be promising to exploit you for greatest market value. I know I would.

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

  • identicon
    Steve, 28 Apr 2009 @ 6:43pm

    "Privacy Policies" are more accurately described as "Your Privacy or Lack Thereof Policies". It is certainly misleading to highlight the existence of a privacy policy that mostly consists of how your information is not kept private. In this age it's critical to empower yourself on digital security issues; that's why I look up data like This*.

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

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