Skip to comments.Should you own your own data?
Posted on 04/27/2010 11:57:09 AM PDT by ShadowAce
Privacy campaigners have long advocated that we should own our data, and we should be able to do what we like with it. So why has an attempt to put this into law caused a minor panic?
A Michigan Senator has introduced a Bill giving individuals the right to request the removal of personal data from websites. Last week, Facebook unilaterally exposed the "interests" - the likes and dislikes - of hundreds of millions of its users, data they had previously thought was private. The Cyber Privacy Bill (HR 5108) would give users some redress. In fact, Facebook wouldn't even have dared try it.
HR 5108 is as brief as it gets. It obliges websites to remove "personal information" which it defines as "any information about an individual that includes, at minimum, the individual's name together with either a telephone number of such individual or an address of such individual".
Somewhat surprisingly the libertarian Cato Institute doesn't regard this as a property or a privacy matter.
Cato's Jim Harper suggests that malicious commenters would use it to post personal information about others - which would then require web hosts to demand authentication from every commenter. This is a strange basis on which to object to the Bill. A bigger problem, surely, is that personal information is so weakly defined in HR 5108 that it would be used to censor reporting.
European privacy legislation is already used in this way: it's had a chilling effect as celebrities use it to keep even established, previously reported facts from being reprinted.
Others object it to it because of its similarity to provisions in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, that put obligations on publishers regarding infringement requests. The DMCA is indeed a major pain for publishers (like us), as a mischievous takedown request causes panic down the distribution chain - a nervous or poorly informed ISP will block access to a site rather than question the validity of the request.
But the DMCA does what it sets out to do. It makes publishers think twice about creator's rights - the default being respect: don't use something if it isn't yours. And the DMCA is one of the few tools in which the little guy can get redress without needing to hire an expensive lawyer. Google's continuing misinformation campaign about the DMCA shows what it really thinks of creator's rights. It makes a mockery of the idea that Web 2.0 "empowers" individual creators.
So while I'm with Cato in being against laws that regulate the internet, it's clear that it's a more complicated picture. I can envisage a "benign" CPA doing something to bring the Googles and Facebooks into line. Today, these companies regard the privacy of their users with contempt - as we saw with Buzz. Do individuals have any rights on the Intertubes, or are we just here to generate marketing information for large web companies? ®
Duh! (Not you, ShadowAce)
I've made exactly that point many many times with people trying to get information from me, as if they were entitled merely for the asking. I educate them that that data is my personal property and will only be shared with them if it's in MY immediate interests to do so. In a similar vein, I love it when people unknown to you leave you voicemails requesting that you call back because it's important. What do they think is going to motivate you to spend your time on something when they haven't given you enough information for you to determine that it's important to YOU, rather than to THEM?
People seem rather schizophrenic on this issue.
First of all the users are posting likes on a publicly accessed page. There is no privacy there, unless the user locks down there account to only friends, and they have no friends.
Second there are only likes. People have been begging for dislikes for a while now.
Hell, UK climate scientists even MAKE their own data!
Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is hard to get it back in. Anybody that puts data in the public domain must understand the risk.
Good post. Saved me some typing. ;-)
What if the other party you are doing business with decides to publish your private information? It's an unforeseen circumstance that should be addressed.
Anybody that asks me for data or my opinion, gets asked a question by me. "How much do I get paid for releasing this information that your organization will profit from?" Always an interesting discussion from there.
Thanks, guys! Glad to see I’m not alone.
How do you punish someone for publishing your private information that you put in the public domain? Do you make it a crime to use any information in the public domain? Do you extend the copyright laws to include private information placed in the public domain? Or do you look at this as a civil case where damages must be assessed?
Getting government involved only grows government, sets up agencies to regulate the sharing of information, provides government with an additional portal into people's lives, and for what? Because twits don't think through the possible consequences to their emotionally driven decisions.
Exactly. Lots of people want a lot of information or else they won't do business with you. Disclosing information for the purpose of a specific transaction shouldn't be interpreted as a lack of interest in the privacy of that information. It also galls me when, in the guise of being good corporate citizens, many companies will release your personal information to law enforcement on the strength of a request, unbacked by a warrant. Warrants discourage fishing expeditions and tailor the breadth and depth of the investigative authority to match what's justified by the probable cause. The steps are there for a reason, they're not some anachronism, and these companies are outside their rights to waive OUR rights to information we had little choice but to trust them with for a specified or implied purpose.
If more people would fend for themselves in all areas of their lives, we would be better off. And the side effect would be less need for government intervention.
What part of “Congress shall make no law” does Orlovski not understand?
That has a parallel in the way that I view municipal recycling operations. Cities have got people trained to accept the idea that recycling costs money for trucks, sorting facilities, etc. But if you don't recycle enough, they kvetch that you're cutting into their revenue stream! Our Phoenix suburb on the local government cable channel was lamenting how our town has the lowest recycling rate in the Phoenix area, and how it was costing THEM money! So they saddle you with the costs, keep the proceeds for themselves, and expect you to be OK with it. When the costs and the benefits go to two different parties the market can't do it's job of deciding the most effective way of getting something accomplished.
Yes. All this law would accomplish would be to make more work for lawyers by creating a new cause of action.
Great observation! Which is exactly why the dems will push for this, and then get
kickbacks campaign contributions from the lawyers.
Great, albeit a bit off topic, observation! Gov't is always trying to dictate the business model. Only the market can find the "optimum" model. Recylcing is a great point. In some cases recycling makes a lot of sense -- but gov't screws it up.
Precisely. If they just leave the costs and proceeds both to accrue to the people who have stuff to recycle, the stuff that makes sense to recycle (aluminum, which is very expensive to refine the first time, and so on) will be profitable and they’ll do it. Other stuff won’t, and they won’t. As it is, there’s no way to tell if certain things are recycled because it’s the sensible thing to do or in response to watermelon orthodoxy. And even for those items where it is, the last owner is the one entitled to the proceeds.
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