Facebook’s attempts to make more and more of people’s profiles publicly available and Google’s seemingly laissez-faire attitude to data have made headlines across the world. People hitherto gung-ho about their digital footprint, knowing little and caring less about the trail of information they leave, have been forced to think a little deeper about their online lives. […]
It wasn’t just European privacy commissioners who sat up and took notice when Google launched its social network tool Buzz and linked it to 170 million Gmail accounts, without actually checking that the mail users wanted to be a part of it. […]
It is an interesting twist in 2010’s privacy story that while private companies have been forced to put their houses in order, governments seem intent on increasing their snooping powers. 2010 has seen a major crackdown on piracy, with governments around the globe demanding that service providers hand over the details of persistent pirates so that tough penalties can be applied. […]
Government snooping laws means ISPs have become odd bedfellows with privacy advocates but how long such a policy will last as they struggle to make money remains to be seen, thinks [Gus Hosein of Privacy International.] […]
And having the tools to know what people are doing could mean that, at some point in the future, firms make value judgements about what services different customers have access to, he said.
It is why privacy is so crucial to the current net neutrality debate and why privacy advocates will continue to put pressure on firms and governments to safeguard it. “For the moment, privacy is very much alive and well online,” said Mr Hosein.
For advocates of privacy rules restricting how much information Internet companies and advertisers can collect about Web users, 2010 began with great promise. […]
Unlike other federal agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission or the Environmental Protection Agency, the FTC does not have broad rulemaking authority. Instead, it is charged with enforcing consumer protection laws, and derives its limited authority from specific statutory mandates, such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or the bill that established the popular Do Not Call registry restricting the activities of telemarketers. The agency does not have a broad mandate to draft and enforce online privacy rules.
But for a time in the spring, it appeared as if that might change. As lawmakers debated the sweeping financial regulatory reform bill, the leading advertising trade groups went on the offensive to lobby senators against a provision that would dramatically expand the FTC’s rulemaking authority, which had been included in version of the bill passed in the House. Their campaign was successful, and the provision was omitted from the final bill.
That left the FTC effectively unable to do much more than nudge Internet companies to act as responsible stewards of users’ information, Chairman Jon Leibowitz told a Senate panel in July. […]
Elsewhere on the privacy landscape, a campaign led by the Center for Democracy and Technology launched in March, calling on Congress to update the law stipulating how government entities such as law enforcement authorities can access electronic information. The broad coalition of public interest organizations and industry members organized under the Digital Due Process group argued that the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) had fallen out of step with the development of modern technology, particularly cloud computing, and hopes to see action on the issue in the new session of Congress.
The year 2011 could be when government cracks down on online advertising – particularly behavioral advertising – in a meaningful way. Thus far, lawmakers and regulators have merely introduced a slow-moving privacy bill and written extensive reports, centered on issues like behavioral ad targeting, consumer data tracking, data security, and children’s data privacy.
With the Federal Trade Commission recently floating its do-not-track concept, and additional legislators piling on with new privacy bill proposal plans, many signs point to passed privacy legislation coupled with increased enforcement capabilities for the FTC when it comes to penalizing violators of potential laws. Consider the coming period the final test for self-regulators as they struggle to appease authorities calling for more transparency and notice around data tracking, collection, and use online.[…]
Nearly two years after then-FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz foretold “a day of reckoning” for online advertisers, the agency he now leads as chairman dropped a bomb on the industry in December by unveiling a proposal for a do-not-track program for online advertising. The FTC said that the industry’s self-regulatory initiative – developed in direct response to the FTC’s own behavioral advertising guidelines and kicked into higher gear after Leibowitz made his forceful statement – had been ineffective and too slow in coming to fruition. […]
The FTC’s call for a do-not-track program – not to mention a contentious series of articles on data privacy issues from The Wall Street Journal – propelled legislators to take action or speak out on online privacy in 2010. […]
[Rep. Ed Markey], and his House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus co-chair Rep. Joe Barton, sent a letter in October to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking his firm to respond to a series of questions regarding an alleged privacy breach reported in The Wall Street Journal. When Facebook responded, Barton said he planned to continue pressure on companies like Facebook in 2011