It’s been a bad week for data privacy, opines Larry Downes on C/Net.
- On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission held the first of three conferences on privacy and technology. Consumer advocates and legal scholars warn of an imminent data apocalypse.
- Sprint reported it has received more than 8 million requests for GPS data about customer location and movement from law enforcement agencies over the last 13 months.
- Verizon and Yahoo filed objections to a Freedom of Information Act request that asked how much the companies charge to comply with government surveillance orders, claiming that release of the information would “shock” and “confuse” customers.
- Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, brushed aside concerns that users are putting too much trust in his company, saying, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
- Facebook, based in part on complaints by government agencies in Canada and Europe, announced in July that it had begun testing a more comprehensive and simplified set of privacy settings. “Under the banner of simplification,” said Electronic Privacy Information’s Center, “Facebook has pushed users to downgrade their privacy.” After a minirevolt, a chastened CEO Mark Zuckerberg quickly reversed course.
- The NSA bent the rules on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when asked to do so by President Bush, says James Bamford, who claimed NSA’s wiretapping facility in Georgia was illegally spying on Americans.