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On Several Fronts, US Gov't Prepares To Regulate Online Privacy

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the learn-from-the-experts dept.

Government 123

storagedude writes "There are at least five US government efforts underway to regulate data and online privacy, according to a new US government internet policy official, who sees some kind of privacy regulation as likely. Ari Schwartz, who left the Center for Democracy and Technology two months ago to become senior internet policy advisor at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, says issues like Facebook's never-ending privacy concerns are making some kind of a national law or regulation more and more likely. He thinks segregating identity from data isn't enough; the data must then be aggregated after identity is stripped out. He also called for objective measures of privacy compliance."

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123 comments

Major intrusion (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33980854)

They are going to try to unmask anonymous first posters, and fine them.

Re:Major intrusion (3, Insightful)

SudoGhost (1779150) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981394)

He thinks segregating identity from data isn't enough; the data must then be aggregated after identity is stripped out.

I'm no lawyer or anything, but last time I checked, that was the opposite of unmasking anonymous posters.

Stand by... (1, Flamebait)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 3 years ago | (#33980856)

... for the "one more step to big government dictatorship" speech in 5-4-3-2-1...

Re:Stand by... (4, Interesting)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981292)

That sounds a little bit sarcastic.

It may not be a step towards government dictatorship, but it is a step towards an environment where an oppressive government could germinate rather quickly. Or did you mean government dictatorship in the context of regulations and Big Government?

My first thought was that this is like having the fox guard the hen house. Considering how far the government has gone in the last 20 years to eliminate our rights to privacy, anonymity, and free communications in general I find it rather curious they are stepping up to protect us from Mr. Zuckerburg and evil Google.

They are the least of my worries. After all, I am not forced to deal with them.

While the government starts to create regulations that affect companies like Facebook and Google, I wonder why we so quickly forget its intentions to secure access to all encrypted voice communications? That development was quite recent, but let's forget that and talk about how people can see what I am doing with my chickens in Farmville. That is far more important right?

Re:Stand by... (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981680)

Bang on schedule.

Rhythm (3, Funny)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981874)

Bang on schedule.

What does government advice about banging on schedule [womenshealth.gov] have to do with online privacy?

Re:Stand by... (5, Insightful)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981766)

The US government is sufficiently large that there isn't a single entity which can be called "the government". One part may well be genuinely interested in protecting privacy, while another part is doing its best to have the Fourth Amendment repealed. Schizophrenic? Oh yes. It's also part of why trying to make plans on what the regulatory environment will be like in four years a complete crapshoot.

There's also the matter than if the government acquires the ability to specifically regulate privacy on Internet sites (above and beyond the more basic "your Terms of Service say X, you did Y, you are in material breach of contract" which applies to all businesses), this forms precedent that the government has the power to regulate other things... content, access, reporting. Only the DHS and other jackboots would consider this a good thing.

No new law or government entity is needed to enforce compliance with privacy statements. Facebook can be held liable for violating its Terms of Service, and fraud on the basis of saying "we don't do this" when they in fact do (and then profiting from it). We don't need a Department of Enforcing Internet Stuff; we just need a judge, a jury, a plaintiff, and a court date.

Re:Stand by... (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982052)

The US government is sufficiently large that there isn't a single entity which can be called "the government".

For no purpose is the reduction of "the government" to a single entity useful.

Facebook can be held liable for violating its Terms of Service, and fraud on the basis of saying "we don't do this" when they in fact do (and then profiting from it).

Only if an offended party brings suit, and they'll only do that if they can find evidence. What's being suggested here is recognizing the violation of online privacy as a form of criminality, something that requires remedy even if an offended party refuses to complain, because they've been bought off or they're not cognizant or whatever. The thing with a civil suit is that everything has its price, and a company like Facebook can buy itself into any form of conduct it pleases buy settling for the right number; but if you make the violation of online privacy a crime, it becomes a principle that no violator can buy their way out of and no victim can ignore.

Re:Stand by... (2, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982054)

I think you don't understand what a Terms of Service is. It binds the company to jack shit. There's nothing enforceable in it against the company. What it does is state up front behavior that they expect of you or they'll remove your access. If you need any proof that it's null and void- for a contract to be enforceable, it requires both sides to give up something material (called "consideration"). Terms of Service require no exchange, thus no contract is enforceable in court. The same goes for any "Privacy Policy" they may have.

New laws are absolutely needed to protect privacy, but you're right that they don't need to be internet specific. What we need are laws preventing any company from selling personally identifiable information to any third party in any circumstance. There is no reason to allow them to do so, and no way to protect your personal privacy if you are. Even if you find a company you trust now, all you need is a change in leadership or a trip to bankruptcy court (where they can be forced to sell it as an "asset") to make it null and void. Of course like any law they need to have enough teeth to make it matter. Forcing the Cxx who violates it to go to jail for 5 years without parole ought to be sufficient.

Re:Stand by... (4, Informative)

jbonomi (1839286) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982270)

The US government is sufficiently large that there isn't a single entity which can be called "the government". One part may well be genuinely interested in protecting privacy, while another part is doing its best to have the Fourth Amendment repealed. Schizophrenic? Oh yes.

Hey! That's not what schizophrenic means! You should instead have said "Does the US government appear to have dissociative identity disorder? Oh yes."

Re:Stand by... (1)

besalope (1186101) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982460)

The US government is sufficiently large that there isn't a single entity which can be called "the government".

Exactly. Instead we have the Ministry of Love, the Ministry of Peace, the Ministry of Plenty, and the Ministry of Truth.

Re:Stand by... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33982170)

I'm really sorry to say, the United States is not a fixable country.
There is no way to resolve the overarching federal statutes and code, there is no way to reduce the size, it will continue to grow and metastasize at an ever increasing rate, just like cancer.
The moment people decide to do anything, is the moment they realize they can do nothing.
SME's are collapsing, not because of loopy financial crap, but because there is no aspirational reason to remain based in the US.
Enjoy the FAIL

Re:Stand by... (2, Informative)

curt_k (533018) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982210)

I'm kind of amazed at the image used here -- the fox guarding the henhouse. Wouldn't that image best apply to Google assuring us they'll do no evil?

Quite contrary to the business propaganda, Adam Smith spelled this out Way Back When: the invisible hand needs a counter to it, and that's democratic, public government. "Unless government takes pains to prevent it..." http://books.google.com/books?id=-mxKAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA163&dq=unless+government+takes+some+pains+to+prevent&hl=en&ei=Ku_ATM3jE4yr8Abmio3hBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=unless%20government%20takes%20some%20pains%20to%20prevent&f=false [google.com]

I'm likewise amazed how often people in capitalist quasi-democracies are *more* paranoid about government abusing individuals than corporations abusing individuals. I'm not saying this is black/white -- of course there are *plenty* of examples of totalitarian government -- but corporations are clearly, inarguably non-democratic. Quasi-democratic governments (such as the US) have *some* public interest and public input (the rest of their motivation and input has been bought by the investment class). Both corporations and "democratic" governments are necessary evils, but "democratic" governments are gonna be the lesser evil.

Re:Stand by... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33982214)

Government is not one person, it's not one department. Government is the system that we built to help us create rules under which society lives.

Just as there are laws that you can't sell yourself into slavery, there are and will be laws that will prevent companies from knowing every aspect of everyone's individual lives. Aggregate statistics are great - they help manufacturers and advertising companies target appropriate markets. Individual stats down to the same level are downright dangerous. The Government has set laws that prevent it from sharing all its knows about you between its own different branches. Laws for private sector is a simple acknowledgment that private companies now can wield nearly perfect knowledge about individuals or they soon will. LexisNexis anyone? Google is simply trying to outdo them. Facebook is even better at it.

*YOU* are forced to deal with all these companies weather you like it or not. By simply posting here, your post is already classified. Everytime someone mentions you on facebook, or on some mailing list, boom, there you are. You are dealing with those companies indirectly, even if you were not on the internet at all.

Finally, don't mix criminal investigation laws with privacy protection laws. They are opposite of each other. The thing you are talking about re: encryption is to be able to continue to apply wiretap laws to the internet. Well, that may be more difficult than they think!

Re:Stand by... (1)

jhol13 (1087781) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982886)

I think it is good that government makes some rules how Facebook stores your personal information.

I have seen far too many cases of how not to do it, how not to store passwords, social security numbers, medical history, purchase history, etc.

Sure "feeding the starving children" is more important, but it does not mean I am willing to allow Google to do whatever it feels is best just because "I am not forced to deal with them".

Re:Stand by... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984250)

what I am doing with my chickens in Farmville

Well, thank you so much! Now I can't get that picture out of my mind.

Re:Stand by... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984330)

> it is a step towards an environment where an oppressive government could germinate rather quickly

While this is a concern for every country on this Earth, there are big bullies like this idiot Zuckerberg screwing around other idiots who trusted him. Now, when the all-wise private sector has failed to regulate itself you have the typical reaction which is Government sticking their fingers in private pies, and never taking them out again. Tragedy of the commons leads to interventionism.

I think the discussion of political systems that would follow is not central to this dichotomy of liberal/conservative, interventionist/unregulated, capitalism/communism. What feels central for me is that society is awash with idiots and simple minded suckers that can't be bothered reading a couple of paragraphs, much less know about law or economy, and who will always make the wrong choices no matter who's leading. I'd vouch for better education and stronger societies but I'm just a crazy european.

And one by one... (4, Insightful)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 3 years ago | (#33980876)

And one by one all the bills will die on the floor as the campaign money comes rolling in.

Re:And one by one... (3, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#33980990)

Are we sure all 5 of these are actually attempts to -preserve- privacy? Because if not, some of them might survive. "Regulation" to me doesn't mean "protection," skimming TFA didn't really clarify things any, and the bill is incomprehensible to me.

Re:And one by one... (1, Troll)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981026)

Are we sure all 5 of these are actually attempts to -preserve- privacy?

I'm sure they are all designed to protect privacy, in the same manner as the L.A. Police were trying to preserve the peace when they pulled over Rodney King. Subjective, perhaps, but in someone's eyes, I'm sure they are all "good" bills.

Re:And one by one... (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981336)

Are we sure all 5 of these are actually attempts to -preserve- privacy?

Of course not. It's an attempt at featherbedding the bureaucracy with another toothless department, whose main purpose is to collect political "donations" to be laundered during the election cycle. Close to 2 billion on this one so far... not too shabby

Re:And one by one... (2, Insightful)

aztektum (170569) | more than 3 years ago | (#33983008)

Incomprehensible is fine. If it were readable, then politicians might have to actually do just that.

Re:And one by one... (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33983662)

Rich people want privacy too and the way the laws work one in all in, it means there will be a lot of people that will demand far stronger privacy laws, anti-data mining laws and, protection of minors privacy and identities. Additionally held data reports to individuals, corporations should be required to report to all individuals for who they have information on, the nature of that information, the details contained therein and, give the individuals the right to correct and or delete that data and, this should be done upon an annual basis.

It should always be the right of an individual to live a private life and where they have at times surrendered elements of their privacy the ability to reinstate a private life at any time the choose. It should not be the right of corporations to invade the privacy of individuals, to not report the nature of information they have about individuals, to hold incorrect and possibly defamatory information about individuals and to deny individuals the right to have that information deleted at any time the individual chooses.

Now how far that extends is a matter of balance, between what is private and what is publics, the difference between the decisions of adults and the manipulation of minors, and of course the use to which that data is put. The most dangerous being the automated psychoanalysis of the data to manipulate the choices of the victims of targeted marketing, especially minors. Target adds at content not at individuals.

Re:And one by one... (2, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981002)

And one by one all the bills will die on the floor as the campaign money comes rolling in.

One will stand. The one that ends up with language that protects corps which invade people's privacy.

Re:And one by one... (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981022)

I wonder if anyone's patented that business model.

1. Propose sweeping legislation affecting profitability of large corporations.
2. ???
3. Profit!

Re:And one by one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33982452)

I doubt it would help. The government is above the law as they've shown time and time again.

Re:And one by one... (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982526)

I wonder if anyone's patented that business model.

1. Propose sweeping legislation affecting profitability of large corporations.
2. ???
3. Profit!

At least some Politicians have that business model.
Do you think that lobbyists will pay if there is no threat?
How many are in it for Good Government?

Re:And one by one... (2, Insightful)

Ocyris (1742966) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981028)

They'll just package it with the backdoor mandate the NSA wants. It'll pass under some title like "The Citizen Privacy, Security and Safety Act" because how could someone possibly oppose those?

Re:And one by one... (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981162)

No no, all the American important bills have AWESOME acroynms - you know like PATRIOT and stuff like that.

So I suggest: Privacy Regulations Over Facebooks & Internet Technology

To reflect all the lobbying which will shoot down most of the bits except the ones which involve making money.

Re:And one by one... (3, Insightful)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981066)

Facebook's never-ending privacy concerns are making some kind of a national law or regulation more and more likely.

Looks like Facebook isn't ponying up enough lobbyists and campaign contributions. If they'd just do this and data-mine for the government, they'd probably be allowed to do everything they do plus install anal/brain probes on us.

Re:And one by one... (2, Insightful)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981508)

And one by one all the bills will die on the floor as the campaign money comes rolling in. My concern is that they will be amended to mean the opposite of privacy.

Too early to know . . . (1, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33980880)

. . . if this is good or bad. It sounds "good" in theory but in execution we might all end-up with boxes tied to our lines that monitor everything we do.

Re:Too early to know . . . (1)

countSudoku() (1047544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981218)

Too late, AT&T, Comcrap, and every ISP already feeds all the data they move from their cores right out to the NSA. For "National Security." Bush signed your privacy away and Obama is keeping it status quo. Feel safer now? Yeah, me neither.

Re:Too early to know . . . (1)

Jarza (1622325) | more than 3 years ago | (#33983964)

You do realize that the equipment to do this was already under development before the Clinton administration and they were the ones to install and switch it on.

Re:Too early to know . . . (1)

alienzed (732782) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981960)

honestly, this is the ONLY way things can be. If you want to hide something, I want to know what it is.

Re:Too early to know . . . (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#33983910)

You know the quote: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Expect any privacy protection legislation to be poisoned to the point of uselessness (think "... to protect the rights of terrorists and paedophiles." on the end of every sentence).

Double edged sword (1, Offtopic)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#33980910)

On the one hand, such legislation would definitely be welcome in this current environment of information free-for-all. We could finally have some benchmark against which we could judge whether companies (and governments!) were properly addressing security and privacy concerns.

On the other hand, it puts an enormous burden on businesses, especially in the still nascent online business sector where we are far from seeing market maturity. Laws like this put a massive damper on technology improvement and force a huge financial penalty against all competitors in this field.

I would give this industry another 5 years before trying to enact a stringent privacy/security statute. That would give the industry enough time to settle down and allow clear leaders to emerge who would then be in a better position to actually implement such measures.

Re:Double edged sword (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981044)

In 5 years without regulation your name would be Oracle_User_Entity_e45feb7a895abe88:0.1.

You want this now.

Re:Double edged sword (2, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981228)

I don't want to hamstring American businesses while the industry is still in its infancy.

Re:Double edged sword (3, Insightful)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981698)

Yes, yes you do. Not all industries start out with good practices. Better to tell them they can't do the bad stuff from the beginning, rather than them becoming dependent on doing the shitty stuff, and being unable to stop them without causing the industry to go tits up. While the industry is young, it can still evolve. Not so much after a while.

Re:Double edged sword (0)

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B-M-W (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33981760)

I don't want to hamstring American businesses while the industry is still in its infancy.

Just exactly what business is it that you believe might be 'hamstrung' by any legislation that might protect my privacy, and what good would such business possibly serve if it trades on my right to said privacy? Why should I care about any business person that might seek to trade on my personal information... WAIT THAT'S IT!!

All that would be REQUIRED in such legislation is that every online business that tracks it's user's data, habits, behavior or the like, include the details of it's intent, methods, data and a list of all its customers for such information and make it easily available to all it's users. 'They' (the company) would be required to list all the attributes of their collection practices in 'their' OPT-ON PRIVACY STATEMENT, prior to collection or distribution of any such information. And every time these attributes changed, the legislation would require yet another OPT-IN consent be registered along with access to the privacy opt-in consent history for each user. Which, of course, would be available online to each user with an account.

That wouldn't be too burdensome, since it could all be collected and maintained automagically, in a separate database.

Muhahahahaha!! (Like that would ever happen!) B-)

      -- B-M-W is meant to represent, "Bitch, Moan, Whine." Do I sound sympathetic to the likes of FacistBook, yet?

Re:Double edged sword (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981248)

We could finally have some benchmark against which we could judge whether companies (and governments!) were properly addressing security and privacy concerns.

We could but we won't. It is more likely to be: your data is private, but not from us, the govt and law enforcement. And that's for your own good and protection.

Re:Double edged sword (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33981436)

I can see this turning out like Sarbanes-Oxley. A huge regulatory cost with no actual benefit. Corporations are going to trade your data, now they'll just sell corporate units instead of "data".

Re:Double edged sword (3, Insightful)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981682)

On the other hand, it puts an enormous burden on businesses

Since when did not revealing my personal data become a "burden"?

Re:Double edged sword (1, Informative)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982148)

Don't you mean "since when did proving to the auditor that I am in complaince with 200 pages of regulations" become a burden? Have you ever done PCI compliance? Regulatory compliance is significant burden on a start up and that's the point. Established corporations love endless regulations, as that means there will never be a startup to shake up thier stone-age ways, and eventually the corps just start writing the regs themselves. This is called "regulatory capture", and it's how liberals make oligopolies happen while whining about the very evil corporations they empower.

Re:Double edged sword (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982968)

If they can't prove that they are in compliance, and not releasing user data improperly, then maybe they should have chosen a different business.

Re:Double edged sword (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#33983394)

So you're saying that Facebook should be the only site of it's kind, and all the open source work in that area should be illegal? Nice.

Re:Double edged sword (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984212)

Well, if they werent such unethical fucks, they wouldnt have to do any of that, as it is they cant behave so theyll be made to.

Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33980932)

I have a Facebook profile, listing myself as heterosexual, and I've never done anything on Facebook to indicate that I was gay. I still got lots of gay ads, though. It may have changed now, because I haven't seen any Facebook ads since I installed Adblock Plus 3 years ago.

(In case you didn't RTFA, the second article is about targetting gay advertisements to gay Facebook profiles. The summary doesn't mention it.)

Re:Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33981202)

Perhaps Facebook knows you better than you know yourself?

Re:Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today? (1)

slapout (93640) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981302)

"But I only watched 'Will And Grace' one time - one day. Wish I hadn't 'cause TiVo now thinks I'm gay" -- Weird Al

Re:Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981342)

Um, and have you visited any gay porn sites? Or maybe it's just that you bought 5 CDs worth of show tunes on iTunes. Perhaps you're constantly searching Bette Midler movies on IMDB? Or maybe you do your Christmas shopping at Michaels.com?

Re:Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today? (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981408)

More on topic. Homosexuality ads in either direction are often based on combining the "Gender" and "Looking for" facebook attributes. If you have the gender set, and you are "looking for" both genders, even if just for "friendship", you will get some Gay or Lesbian targeted ads (depending on your gender). It has always worked that way.

The advertises have always (or at least for nearly the entire existence of face-book ads) been able to target users based on Gender, age ranges, and "looking for" genders. The fact is though that the advertisers cannot rely on the "looking for" genders having any real meaning, because many straight people have both set since they are looking for (non-romantic) friends of either gender. (i.e. not everybody interprets the "looking for" setting the same way).

there is no privacy, get over it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33981070)

Nobody should be using the internet as if they have any privacy at all.

This legislation will give people a false sense of security, leading them to continue leaking data about themselves.

The government will have the easiest access to this leaked data, so it makes sense that they want to pass this kind of legislation.

Re:there is no privacy, get over it (1)

camg188 (932324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981298)

Yeah, the whole point of Facebook is to post private information about yourself for others to see.
If you don't want people to have access to certain information, don't post it at all. ...duh.

Re:there is no privacy, get over it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33983670)

But a large part of what goes on on Facebook is people posting private information about other people for others to see. Consider photos: of those who post photos, how many post only photos which don't contain anyone other than the poster?

Privacy and the Federal Government (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33981120)

If the Federal Government cares about privacy, they can demonstrate it by telling the people running Medicare to stop violating USC 42 1395b by suggesting to private insurers that they should refuse to insure customers who don't want to give their Social Security Numbers.

The US government already regulates privacy. (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981132)

As in seeing to it that we don't have too much of it. Think CALEA, for example.

Don't worry (3, Interesting)

davegravy (1019182) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981142)

Maybe Facebook's, sure, but rest assured that the government won't limit their own ability to spy on you

Re:Don't worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33982174)

Sure, but there's (lets be serious a moment) a difference. While I'm at least as concerned about recent (Bush and Obama-era) moves toward secrecy in what they're collecting, that's not been as much by act of Congress as by fiat. (And a lot of it is unconstitutional, at that.) So we're comparing apples and oranges in terms of who is limiting and who is violating.

All of that said, the governmental also have a legitimate reason to collect data, under constitutionally controlled circumstances. (That is to say, with warrants and under oversight.) But there's also supposed to be real accountability here and there's a difference between collecting your data to profit by it and collecting your data because there's legitimate reason to suspect you of a (serious) crime.

Re:Don't worry (2, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982550)

Collecting data is not as big a problem as keeping data afterwards. The great problem of privacy is that companies and governments don't throw away the data after it has served the original purpose for which it was collected. Then, sometimes years later, someone unrelated has the ability to sift through it making new inferences, without going to the trouble of collecting it for themselves.

What's needed are laws that make keeping data beyond their immediate purpose a strong liability. We should be able to sue any company which has some information about us without having an immediate relationship with us. We should be able to sue any company which used to have a relationship with us, but no longer does and still keeps that information for their records, either for convenience or any other purposes.

We need data protection standards and legal auditing requirements to check that corporate IT systems can completely erase any customer's collected information, and serious fines and criminal penalties in case things don't add up, just like for tax evasion.

Re:Don't worry (2, Interesting)

PapayaSF (721268) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982874)

This initiative is especially amusing coming shortly after this innovation from Obama's Organizing for America [barackobama.com]. Click the link and (unless you get an error) you'll get a page based on your location, with the phone number of a voter to call. You get the name, age, gender, city, and party ID. You're supposed to read a short push-poll from a script, get their opinions of the President and his policies, and report on the person's response. No potential for abuse there, having political opinions linked to individuals in a central database run by the President's organization!

Thank you, Zuckerberg! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33981212)

Because of capitalists and business men like you, we get the heavy hand of government.

Re:Thank you, Zuckerberg! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33981280)

No, because of non-thinking voters like *you*, we get the heavy hand of government.

Re:Thank you, Zuckerberg! (1)

camg188 (932324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981482)

Sure, blame the business men. The government has been salivating to control the internet for a while now. Facebook privacy issues are just an excuse to try to convince the citizens they're doing it to help and protect them.
If the government was simply responding to bad business practices, why has there been no sensible policy or discussion about net neutrality, or why do I still pay $3 to make ATM withdrawals or pay a $30 NSF fee for a $1 overdraft, etc., etc.? It's because it is not in the government's self interest.

(I am becoming more cynical and paranoid of government the older I get. ...or am I?)

Want privacy??? (1)

Lord Jester (88423) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981252)

Don't post personal stuff online.

I have nothing online that I am concerned with someone finding out about. It is the World Wide Web. It is not your personal intranet! All the information is out there anyway if you know where to look.

there's only ONE way to get online privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33981290)

And this isn't it. The US govt itself is one of the largest violators of online privacy.

The only way is to be careful with your data. If you care about private communication with your buddy Bob, then gpg or otherwise encrypt your messages to Bob.

Anything you put out on the internet in plain-text IS open to snopping, no matter WHAT laws are passed, and no matter what nice friendly language you read in some EULA for a web site.

If you want it private, you must act in a way that is consistent with that wish. Otherwise, you won't get it. Let's stop depending on benevolent overlords to protect us... sometimes they aren't really so benevolent.

The proposed regulations: (1)

rickzor (1838596) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981326)

The house is trying to "require notice to and consent of an individual prior to the collection and disclosure of certain personal information relating to that individual." [house.gov] and "To foster transparency about the commercial use of personal information, provide consumers with meaningful choice about the collection, use, and disclosure of such information, and for other purposes. [house.gov]
The FTC is pushing a browser-based do-not-track mechanism similar to the do-not-call list [ecrmguide.com]
Followed by numerous non-government codes of ethics and various advertising regulations.

As nice and helpful these moves may seem for us users, think of the current advertising market on the internet and wide array of user information practices that keep web companies on top of the market. The economic blow of these bills may be too much to actually push them through.

Re:The proposed regulations: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33981530)

do-not-track?

how on earth do they intend to regulate something like that?

Nancy Pelosi says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33981372)

“But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."

Please, oh, please, foreclose Pelosi's House--vote her and her kind out of office.

It's a little bloody late for that. (4, Informative)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#33981852)

The EU and the Brits figured this out long ago. The British data protection act is a model of privacy protection that we should have emulated. But that was in the day that the world wide wibbley web was still very immature and back when moneyed interests weren't as powerful. Now there's so much inertia for data mining the web that this will never see the light of day outside any Senate or House committee.

--
BMO

Re:It's a little bloody late for that. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982336)

The British data protection act is a model of privacy protection that we should have emulated.

Actually, the DPA offers fairly poor privacy protection. It doesn't require opt-in before tracking personal data, for example, nor does it give you any right to demand that personal data held about you be removed from a system as long as that data is actually correct. In fact, it doesn't really offer any privacy guarantee at all in the traditional sense; we rely more on the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights for such privacy protection as we do have.

The real problem we have today is that in a world with massive databases, fast and cheap communications via the Internet, etc., traditional privacy standards don't actually protect the things they used to in any meaningful way. We need to consider why privacy is important, and establish social and legal norms that protect what matters, instead of trying to somehow adapt ideas that are decades out of date as if they are still going to protect individuals from abuse by larger and more powerful organisations today.

So long as they don't go too far. (1)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982014)

This might be good if limited to the kinds of information sharing that takes place without the user's knowledge, but I can easily see how it would turn out not to be such a good thing if the law catered to those who aren't cautious enough to protect their own privacy.

One example of a feature I consider useful that others might not is Amazon's suggestion system. In my case I actually want Amazon to suggest new books to me, and the only way it can do that is to collect information about the books that I and other people buy. While much of that data could be kept in anonymized form, some of that data (e.g. a list of my own purchases) has to be tied to my username. So long as it's done transparently, I think that's perfectly OK.

Didn't the 9th circuit just rule (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33982086)

that there is no privacy, anywhere?
I mean, at least for non-rich people.

rolex watches (-1, Offtopic)

surui (1926558) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982818)

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Sauce for the Goose? (1)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982856)

My online privacy would be helped far more by an end to warrantless wiretapping and data collection by the government. If I don't like Facebook's privacy protections I can just not use it. There's no opt-out for the NSA.

Facebook's online privacy concerns?? (1)

tmach (886393) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982858)

Last time I checked, Facebook wasn't going to reveal any information about me that I didn't put there to begin with. So now instead of simply telling people DON'T PUT ANYTHING ON THE INTERNET THAT YOU DON'T WANT PEOPLE ON THE INTERNET TO SEE, we have to have another set of 500 page regulations that no one will understand, that no one voting on them will even read before voting, and that will end up having some messed up consequences down the road. That makes sense. Your tax dollars at work, folks.

Okay, I admit that it's rotten when apps raid your friends list and scarf their info as well as yours, but again it wouldn't matter if people wouldn't put "private" information on the World Wide Web. I have a crazy idea: go meet people in real life! It's cool! It's even in 3D!

Dont be fooled (1)

halo8 (445515) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982894)

Dont be fooled, the corporations and governments will craft legislation to give them all the power they want to collect all the data they want, think: national security.

What Privacy Acts really do, In countries like Canada, is protect the governments and protect the corporations.
its so simple
"sorry we cant release that information because it would violate the persons privacy"

Executives, Politicians, Middle Managers, Bureaucrats, they are all people too, they all have a right to privacy, right?
customer complaints, federal suits, "sorry, we cant release those, privacy"
This happens all the time to Canadian media.

International visitors, sites and jurisdictions (2, Insightful)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 3 years ago | (#33982988)

I understand that the US government can regulate the interaction between US citizens and US companies, and that it can also regulate US citizens and US companies each in their own right.

But if series-of-facetubes.dk (a hypothetical Danish company, operating in Denmark, privately owned by a Danish citizen) became the hot new social network, the US gov. can't really regulate it, can it? Of course, the US can always threaten to "bring democracy" to Denmark if we aren't obedient enough, but that would be kind of iffy.

So... given that any regulation can only give incomplete results, the point of it is... the incomplete results? I.e. "They're better than nothing"? Granted, some of the biggest perceived privacy threats are american (google, facebook).

Just a thought: whenever anyone wants to regulate the internet, ask yourself "how will this work, internationally?"

Ownership rights (3, Insightful)

tombeard (126886) | more than 3 years ago | (#33983136)

This crap is never going to stop until we clearly define who owns what data. Out current system says any data you collect is yours to do with as you please. I think we, as a society, need to change the definition. Henceforth, as proclaimed by me and everyone else that agrees, I am the sole owner of any and all data about myself. Sometimes we may share data, such as when I owe you money, but beyond that everything about me is mine, my location, purchases, height, weight, finger prints, DNA, medical history, library usage, bank balance and transactions, mood........ You may find you know some of these things about me. If you do, keep it to yourself and don't be caught recording it or selling it or aggregating it or I can sue you for theft of personnel data. All we need to do do is change the definition and this becomes possible.

Re:Ownership rights (2, Informative)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984092)

This works except for the plain view doctrine. Any information that is available in plain view, which when adapted to the context of the modern Internet include any information that you put in a publicly viewable site such as Slashdot, is free for use by anyone who can see it.

In real terms, if you leave your house, anyone can see what color your skin is. They cannot be prohibited from communicating that information to someone else. You cannot tell someone they are not allowed to know that which they can see in plain view.

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