Please Don’t Take My Privacy (Why Would Anybody Really Want It?)

Legal issues with privacy in social media stem from the nature of social media – an inherently communicative and open medium. A cliché is that in social media there is no expectation of privacy because the very idea of privacy is inconsistent with a “social” medium. Scott McNealy from Sun Microsystems reportedly made this point with his famous aphorism of “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” But in evidence law, there’s a rule barring assumption of facts not in evidence. In social media, by analogy: Where was it proven that we cannot find privacy in a new communications medium, even one as public as the internet and social media? Let’s go back to basic principles. Everyone talks about how privacy has to “adapt” to a new technological paradigm. I agree that technology and custom require adaptation by a legal system steeped in common law principles with foundations from the 13th century. But I do not agree that the legal system isn’t up to the task. All you really...

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Privacy: Consent to Collecting Personal Information

Gonzalo Mon writes in Mashable that “Although various bills pending in Congress would require companies to get consent before collecting certain types of information, outside of COPPA, getting consent is not a uniformly applicable legal requirement yet. Nevertheless, there are some types of information (such as location-based data) for which getting consent may be a good idea.  Moreover, it may be advisable to get consent at the point of collection when sensitive personal data is in play.” First, what current requirements – laws, agency regulations and quasi-laws – require obtaining consent, even if not “uniformly applicable”? 1. Government Enforcement.  The Federal Trade Commission’s November 2011 consent decree with Facebook user express consent to sharing of nonpublic user information that “materially exceeds” user’s privacy settings.  The FTC was acting under its authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act against an “unfair and deceptive trade practice”, an authority the...

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Privacy For Businesses: Any Actual Legal Obligations?

For businesses, is there an obligation in the United States to do anything more than simply have a privacy policy?  The answer is not much of an obligation at all. Put another way, is it simply a question of disclosure – so long as a business tells users what it intends to do with their personal information, can the business pretty much do anything it wants with personal information? … Read more

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