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Friday, September 14, 2007

Privacy Is The New Black...

...But There's No Money-Back Guarantee.

Major Internet companies are changing their policies regarding data retention, shortening the life of the information they keep. In March, Google announced that it will keep your data for only 18 months (previously until the year 2038). Microsoft is making similar moves. Government pressure and emerging privacy regulations are major drivers.

Several innovations are emerging to help you "sweep up your digital litter" and keep you anonymous. As cited in Wired Magazine, MyPrivacy, by ReputationDefender, lets users control how their personal data is brokered across the web. AskEraser from will let you scrub away your personal nuggets from that search-engine's data mine.

At the other end of the spectrum are Rapleaf, UpScoop, and their ilk, making a living of blending together your digital leftovers to create a delicious meal for the hungry marketer (see my previous post on the topic).

In the face of the assault on our privacy and the increasing risk of identity theft, we have to begin to ask difficult questions about how regulation and law should protect an individual's online information and identity. Hard questions to answer to be sure...and in many cases, hard questions to even formulate.

Worryingly, as pointed out on the EphemeralLaw blog, the courts are ruling that identity theft isn't a problem until it's too late, and serious (and potentially irreparable) damage is done. In a case of documented theft of customer data (from a bank, mind you!),

The consumers requested that the court grant them, among other relief, payment for the cost of credit monitoring services - a seemingly reasonable request, given the fact that their personal data was now in the hands of criminals who had likely stolen it for the specific purpose of facilitating identify theft. However, the seventh circuit decided that the harm suffered by the consumers was only potential harm, and therefore was not compensable under the relevant state law. True, the consumers had to pay for credit monitoring, but the court pointed out that they could not show that their identities had been stolen (yet), so the case was thrown out.

This approach has other fans. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) has a privacy framework based on the same notion. Google has proposed this same framework as a global privacy standard. In this article from CNet, Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleicher stated,
"Privacy standards should focus on actual harms to consumer privacy. Other countries have an ideological bent...APEC has a pragmatic focus on privacy harms...not abstractions."

I suggest that it doesn't look good for our privacy heroes. Why? Because in today's world where data is everywhere, and free, privacy costs money. And it seems that folks would rather be less poor than more private.

So while privacy might be the new black, it appears not to be as attractive as the old green.

What does this have to do with Internet Parenting? Simple: the sooner your kids start depositing digital litter, the harder it will be to erase their digital trail -- and you can be sure they're being tailed right now...

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  • Hi John,
    I've written an article that touches on Internet privacy and personal data gathering by a new web site called Lockerz which seems well on its way to becoming the next big thing amongst kids:

    Perhaps if you get a chance you might like to check it out. Feedback welcome!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 14, 2009 11:01 AM  

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