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Social Media Sleuthing

The amount of surveillance we all face now in society is getting to be pretty alarming. Body cameras will only make things worse from a privacy point of view.

Still, this case of a hate crime quickly solved due to a surveillance camera coupled with one citizen using social media shows the power of technology in the face of senseless crimes.

The debate will rage as cameras become a bigger part of our lives at an exponential rate. Here we have the positives. There will be plenty of negatives as well.

Online privacy battle in California

Things are getting interesting in California. Tech companies are fighting privacy advocates over a California bill that would require companies like Facebook, Google and other social networks to disclose to users the personal data the services have collected and with whom they have shared it. It doesn’t restrict what they can do, but the disclosure requirements are still very controversial and could be very expensive.

The fight for the social web

The battle for privacy on social networking sites is heating up.

Privacy. It’s a word we hear a lot in the digital age, especially now that Facebook and Twitter are signing on users practically straight from the womb. It’s also a concept very few people understand. Just type your name into the search engine pipl.com. If you’re like me, you’re fortunate enough to have a fairly common name, but even then an alarming amount of information can show up. The funny thing about that search engine is everything on it is either in the public record or was shared by the person to whom it pertains. That’s right, we’re to blame for the vast majority of private information that is publicly available.

Legislators in California are trying to reduce the amount of information we accidentally share by imposing new privacy laws on social media.

The arguments against these regulations are ridiculous, so you have to read the entire articles, which also includes a story of a 14-year-old girl who created all sorts of issues for her family with her online social media accounts.

Digital Due Process coalition

Many are now concerned about web privacy, so a group of companies have formed the Digital Due Process coalition to advocate for clearer laws to protect privacy online. The opening paragraphs from the web site for this group explains their position.

ECPA Reform: Why Now?

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was a forward-looking statute when enacted in 1986. It specified standards for law enforcement access to electronic communications and associated data, affording important privacy protections to subscribers of emerging wireless and Internet technologies. Technology has advanced dramatically since 1986, and ECPA has been outpaced. The statute has not undergone a significant revision since it was enacted in 1986 – light years ago in Internet time.

As a result, ECPA is a patchwork of confusing standards that have been interpreted inconsistently by the courts, creating uncertainty for both service providers and law enforcement agencies. ECPA can no longer be applied in a clear and consistent way, and, consequently, the vast amount of personal information generated by today’s digital communication services may no longer be adequately protected. At the same time, ECPA must be flexible enough to allow law enforcement agencies and services providers to work effectively together to combat increasingly sophisticated cyber-criminals or sexual predators.

The time for an update to the ECPA is now. For more than a year, privacy advocates, legal scholars, and major Internet and communications service providers have been engaged in a dialogue to explore how the ECPA applies to new services and technologies. We have developed consensus around the notion of a core set of principles intended to simplify, clarify, and unify the ECPA standards; provide clearer privacy protections for subscribers taking into account changes in technology and usage patterns; and preserve the legal tools necessary for government agencies to enforce the laws and protect the public.

Privacy in the digital age

Everything has changed. In the past ten years we’ve reached a tipping point where technology involving surveillance and the sharing of information has become so pervasive and inexpensive that we can no longer assume that our actions or words will be kept private.

Add in the dangers posed by terrorists and criminals, and now we have a greater appetite for compromising privacy in exchange for greater security.

We started this blog to address the tensions between the competing needs for security and privacy. We’ll also address the tools out there that citizens can use to shield their privacy, along with the tools that can be used to get information . . . even about others.

In the end, we will need to make choices about how to balance these interests as a society, and each individual will need to come to their own conclusions about how to live in the new environment. For example, if you could spy on your spouse or significant other, would you do it? Would you place a GPS device on their car? How much surveillance is appropriate regarding your children? Get used to these difficult questions.

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