Google Privacy Fiasco Lesson: There Is No Privacy
Posted 20 February 2012 - 09:55 PM
At the moment (pending some as yet unissued Supreme Court ruling that rejects stare decisis and reverses several decades of majority opinions by the Court), U.S. citizens certainly do have a judicially recognized constitutional right to privacy as against the government. But that right is not absolute, not terribly well defined, and not irreversible. Most important, like every other constitutional right (aside, perhaps, from the thirteenth amendment's abolition of slavery), the right to privacy does not govern behavior between nongovernmental entities.
When a corporation intrudes on your privacy by tracking your online travels, your constitutional right to privacy is not implicated--just as, when a bouncer kicks you out of a bar for talking too loud, your constitutional right to free speech is not implicated. The proper sphere for limiting or prohibiting aggressive or intrusive behavior by one private entity against another is statutory law, not constitutional law.
Posted 05 July 2012 - 08:53 AM
Of course, the concept of laws and policies--so called "Self Regulation"--is a red herring and a non sequitur. The profit motive is at play and legislation in the virtual world is without teeth. The internet has no jurisdiction. So what is to govern the tools and data used for marketing, analytics and of course more treacherous deeds--which, of course, exist...
Consider all of the data being gathered for many purposes at all of the web sites that you visit. Some of the data is needed simply to observe your page transitions through an online purchase, other data is being used to direct advertising to you far into the future, and other data is being used for things that you would decidedly avoid--if you had any say it he decision!. But the problem with self regulation is that the trustworthy 'white hats' aren't the ones that will violate voluntary standards. It is the deceitful web sites or those that are inadvertently partnered with harvesting and analytics processes that cause concern.
There is indeed a solution to the problem. The solution is a nascent science that is just now getting off the ground. It permits accumulation and actions on data with a surprising twist: No tracking at all and no potential to misuse the data, whatsoever. The very notion of an anonymous data pool providing targeted results has retarded development in the field for several years. The claim and benefit sound unlikely.
Fortunately, Google and other large service providers are cozying up to the new mathematics, called Blind Signaling and Response. It is to Privacy what RSA is to security (think "https"). It changes the privacy problem from policy & trust into a technical issue that can protect everyone. It will allow Google and others to unequivocally prove that they are among the good guys, while still generating value for users and profits for their marketers and stakeholders.
Currently, there is very little online resources about Blind Signaling and Response. A reasonable layperson explanation is at awildduck.com.
Ellery Davies clarifies the intersection of Technology, Law and
Public Policy. He is an occasional contributor to PCWorld, The
Wall Street Journal, CNet and Yahoo. He is also the editor of
A Wild Duck.
This post has been edited by starbus: 05 July 2012 - 09:11 AM