Can privacy keep up with technology?

 
 
 

Can privacy keep up with technology?

In 2003, California passed SB 27, or the "Shine the Light Law." Basically it required companies doing business with Californians to disclose all sales of private information to third parties, like telemarketers, spammers, junk mail and more.

And then came google and Facebook. And the third party apps demanding information about us. Information the companies are more than happy to sell. In less than a decade (Hell, in less than half a decade) the "Shine the Light Law" became outdated.

Now, Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal is pushing for an updated bill. AB 1291 will, in the words of the ACLU, "modernize the right to know law's inadequate definitions, simplfy the disclosure processes for both businesses and individuals, and update the statutes outdated focus on direct marketing."

Of course, there is industry backlash. Why wouldn't there be? Upsetting the cash cow?

The Wall Street Journal describes the bill thusly:

It would make Internet companies, upon request, share with Californians personal information they have collected—including buying habits, physical location and sexual orientation—and what they have passed on to third parties such as marketing companies, app makers and other companies that collect and sell data.

People readily share all kinds of information, daily. Liking all kinds of brands, downloading all kinds of apps. And there's probably like, ten of you that still check in on Foursquare. You're willing participants.

According to the ACLU who co-sponsored the bill, the bill isn't merely concerning itself not just finding out you're a single straight girl from Chicago who likes Ketel One. It's more that collection of financial, religious, health information and buying habits sometimes lead to drastic consequences.

Such as:

losing jobs due to background checks of this nature. Checks that led to erroneous conclusions.

Such as: Revealing you were pregnant, before you told anyone.

Such as: Allowing abusers and stalkers to torment their victims, via GPS locator apps.

By the way, the Wall Street Journal failed to mention these from the ACLU fact sheet. Instead, they chose to focus on how if passed, the bill would make it hard for companies to make the kind of money they do now:

A week ago, a coalition of businesses and trade groups wrote to Ms. Lowenthal urging her to "not move forward" with a bill that seeks to impose "costly and unrealistic mandates" that could leave them vulnerable to lawsuits, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

So it would be too costly to make sure we have a right to know what's being used with our data, but it's cool to hire Frank Ghery to design a 433,555 square foot mega office. There's no possible way google can monitor our privacy (or protect I.P) because it's waaaaaay too much money. But they can expand their googleplex to 65 buildings.

This article also gives a great POV of bullshit from Robert Callahan, director of State Government Affairs at TechAmerica. He says that companies are already trying to protect our privacy but because of the haphazard and sometimes anonymous nature of data collection, there's no no possible way to let individuals know what data is being collected.

So wait. You're doing everything you can to ensure our privacy. And yet your method of data collection is sometimes (not always mind you, but sometimes) so nebulous you don't even know how to furnish the information.

Right.

Other companies like linked in are refusing to comply with requests for what information is being shared because it doesn't disclose personally identifiable information to third-party apps, so therefore they don't have to comply with any such requests. Note that they did not reveal what they share, merely that it isn't personal.

Right.

Still, my most favorite quote comes from Democratic Assemblyman Rich Gordon, who says "If industry weighs in and says this works, maybe this bill is the right vehicle—but that's not what I'm hearing right now from industry."

Did I mention Gordon is based in Menlo Park, home of Facebook?

Remember too, this is the same state that planned its budget based on projected earnings from Facebook's public offering. And then were forced to revise downward when Facebook's stock price tanked. These guys are not anxious to upset the apple cart any more than they have to. Who cares about privacy when there are overblown union dues and pensions in bankrupt cities like Stockton to take care of?

As for Assembly member Lownethal: Your work's cut out for you. But you have my vote.

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Comments

The revealing you're pregnant story is both impressive and creepy, and serves to remind us that all that data collection, while "innocent" reveals so much about us that we may not want to reveal.

Meanwhile Congressional Staffers Upset That People Actually Want To Read Their Tweets shows us the weird disconnect people have. "I'll share it all, but only to those people who I WANT to read it"
When tweets hit the news, people can get in trouble and not DM:ing a picture of your junk can ruin your career. Privacy laws were written in an analog era and are no longer suitable to address current privacy threats said Patrick Leahy.

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