Is Our Use of Technology Outpacing Our Privacy?
WebiMax Contributor, January 12, 2012
Some people, outside of the online industry, shun particular gadgets and platforms, whether it's due to a technologically-inept understanding or a refusal to partake, to keep "private" matters private. One can unabashedly share information (information ultimately available to whom?) or try to maintain a modicum of privacy in an age where people use the Internet as a canvas to illustrate everyday thoughts, emotions, plans, actions, etc.
While some of us within the search engine optimization industry are feasting thoughts on Google Chrome, SOPA and Google+, maybe we need to think about something more general regarding online participation, our privacy as citizens.
Digital Due Process, a conglomerate of tech firms, privacy gurus, and advocacy alliances, wants to steer ours and the attention of the government back to 1986, when the Electronic Communications Act was first instituted. It seems the conglomerate has secured the attention of some in Congress, yet remains dissatisfied with the "hands off" approach from law enforcement agencies.
What's your level of concern? Maybe you haven't really thought about how much "footage" you potentially supply on a daily basis to interested "viewers." Warrants are warranted to tap your phone and search your house. What about your electronic possessions, thoughts, and sentiments? Are they protected too?
In the latest release from the Mission Impossible movie series. Some really cool gadgets and technologies were featured, one allowing a centralized location to track the exact whereabouts of a cell-phone owner. An ivy-league source, credited in above-mentioned article, explains such notions are more fact than Hollywood fiction.
In addition to cell phone usage, what about online documents, emails, and other virtual content? Google reported over 6,000 US government requests for such varieties of info in the first half of 2011 alone. That wasn't the first time an outside source demanded user information. A similar situation happened with Verizon and law enforcement some time ago.
You may be surprised to find how outdated your sense of privacy is. According to representatives in the Digital Due Process camp, in most of the US, an agent armed with a subpoena but no judge-signed document can demand your online content.
The advocacy group wants to strengthen peoples' depth of protection to include online documents, tracking data, routing data from cell phones, and records of calls. In addition, the group wants to protect the privacy of browsers who breach a particular Web page. The group hopes to influence domestic laws rather than those influencing national or international security.
As referenced above, the problem is outdated laws; our technology has outpaced our privacy. For instance, the 1986 law stipulates privacy is protected regarding emails in "transit" and maintain protection up to 180 days, but not after. It may be time for a revision, considering we've raised the Web to be the behemoth it is today from its modest beginnings.
Can the Digital Due Process endeavors help us catch up to our privacy? There is some resistance, explains Jim Dempsey, vice president of for public policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology and Digital Due Process leader: "[The Justice Department] has been quietly opposing any changes."