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Tuesday, 27 March 2012 10:38

Online Privacy Will be a Big Talking Point As the US Gears Up for Elections, But Will Anything Get Done?

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84The online privacy debate is heating up as we head into an election year in the US. So far we have watched as a handful of new legislation is talked about and data brokers, online services and others are asked for commentary on their practices. Of course, the real question is; will any of this matter or make it into law? As we have witnessed in the past, what congress asks for does not always happen and in fact many times it is dropped for unknown reasons.

The latest in the congressional “outrage” is the issue over mobile applications grabbing contact lists and other personal information from phones. Although the reasons for this have been washed over, many times it is solely for marketing purposes and is sold off to third-party companies so that they can in turn sell lists of names to other companies. These practices are often hidden deep inside the terms and conditions of usage. Just the other day while looking for a game in the new Google Play market I stumbled across a game whose permissions included access to my contact list. Another game “SIMS Free Play” had permissions to record audio and also locate me via GPS, could start automatically at boot, pull the UDID (Unique Device ID), Phone numbers of people I call, and a few other things.

Now, what game really needs all of that information? None that I can think of unless it is a game that you use while calling someone.  It is this type of access that has most privacy advocates worried. In the meantime the FTC, Congress and a couple of other governmental agencies are talking big about preventing employers from getting your Facebook password, a global do not track list and more transparency from companies that store your data.  These are many of the same things they have been asking about for years.

Meanwhile issues like CarrierIQ and collection of personal data from your phone go largely unchecked. Technology is great and because of it we have a lot more access and connectivity than we have ever had before. The problem is that companies have begun to realize the value of the data they amass. With systems like Constant Contact and many others a company can reach millions of people in a single sweep. The issue comes down to how to fill and grow those lists of people. This is how the marketing of your personal information got its start. Well actually the marketing of your personal information in the US started with political candidates being able to purchase lists of voters so that they could mass mail and target them for their campaigns, from there corporations realized that they should be able to do the same thing.

So again, when you hear this congress person or this agency talking hard about protecting your personal information and your privacy on the Internet, just remember that most of them are trying to keep their jobs and are likely to say anything at this point (after the fiasco with SOPA and PIPA). If the US government wants to impress the voting population they need to act, not talk about protecting people’s privacy and make their own practices more transparent as well.

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Read 2048 times Last modified on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 10:46

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