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    New York Times: There’s No Data Sheriff on the Wild Web

    The New York Times has an article about the dearth of laws that strongly protect online privacy:

    About two weeks ago, hackers dived into Sony’s PlayStation 3 game system, resulting in the loss of up to 77 million customers’ personal and private information and over 12 million credit and debit card numbers.

    Epsilon, an e-mail marketing company, lost millions of customers’ e-mail addresses to hackers in early April; Apple, Google and Microsoft have all been quietly collecting location data about mobile customers without their knowledge. And last year, AT&T was attacked through a bug in its iPad software, resulting in the loss of 100,000 customer e-mail addresses.

    Each company was blamed for failing to properly protect consumer information. But for redress, consumers must rely on states, and serious punishment or fines rarely happen.

    “There needs to be new legislation and new laws need to be adopted” to protect the public, said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut […]

    But how? Privacy experts say that Congress should pass legislation regulating companies if they collect certain types of information. If such laws existed today, they say, Sony could be held responsible for failing to properly protect the data by employing up-to-date security on its systems.

    Or at the very least, companies would be forced to update their security systems. In underground online forums last week, hackers said Sony’s servers were severely outdated and infiltrating them was relatively easy. […]

    Christina Gagnier, a lawyer specializing in privacy and copyright, said the privacy bills being discussed by lawmakers addressed some of the data collection by companies like Facebook, but could be outdated before they pass Congress.

    “I’m afraid that the legislation on the table right now isn’t going to forecast what coming privacy issues are going to look like in the next couple of years,” she said. “Mobile, location and data storage will be a big issue in future privacy debates, and I don’t think lawmakers are looking forward to what’s next.”

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