"You have zero privacy anyway.... Get over it."
- Scott McNealy, former CEO of Sun Microsystems 1
"Stop looking at me Swan!"
- Billy Madison, character 2
The foundations of Constitutional privacy theory were espoused more than a century ago by Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis. Their core thesis was that privacy is "the right to be left alone". 3 A more formalistic legal view of privacy centers on four common law torts: intrusion upon seclusion, public disclosure of private facts, putting an individual in a false light, and appropriation of an individual's name or likeness. 4
As new technologies emerge, so do privacy concerns. The applications on one's phone can perform incredible feats. Is that all they are doing, though?Wall Street Journal: Your Apps are Watching You
Below is the complaint from the Center for Digital Democracy to the FTC regarding privacy violations, indeed practices. (Read only the first nine pages).CDD complaint to FTC
Current statutes relating to privacy:
The FTC has prosecuted firms under several of the aforementioned statutes. The FTC obtained a consent decree against Sears for surreptitiously installing tracking software on users' machines without their knowledge. 6 The FTC has taken action against popular sites that violate their own stated privacy policies, as where Twitter failed to honor a user's requests to keep designated tweets private. 7 More recently, it has prosecuted spyware claims against a number of firms. 8
In addition to FTC enforcement actions under existing laws, a variety of alternative solutions have been offered to resolve privacy concerns. These include using common law tort and property rights claims to handle the issue. 9 A number of comentators do not believe there is a bona fide reason for concern. 10 Industry has, somewhat predictably, advocated self-regulation and the promulgation of voluntary standards. 11 One advertising industry lobbying group presumes that adequate tools exist and that consumers simply need to be further educated. 12 An existing standard for privacy, known as P3P (Privacy Preferences Project), was launched by W3C (an Internet standards body) in 2002 to give users more knowledge and control over what information is shared by web sites; P3P was criticized as overly complex for the average user, and has not been taken up by industry. 13 And the Obama administration has launched an interagency Subcommitte on Privacy and Internet Policy. 14
The government has charged the Federal Trade Commission with researching proposals to allow consumers greater control over their personal data. The FTC staff's current recommendation is known as "Do Not Track". Its three main tenets are the following:
Do these suggestions adequately address consumer concerns? Industry
needs? Is technology a panacea? Is regulation?
The Commerce Department is also weighing in:Commerce Department: Privacy Green Paper (Read only the executive summary).
So, how does this really work? (Some parts are technical).33 Bits: Do Not Track Explained
Feedback on the FTC proposals:Social Times: The legal perspective
Needless to say, a number of comentators have worried that the solutions on offer are worse than the disease.US News: [N]ew rules would put a stop to the Internet as we know it
Judge for yourself. Two popular browers, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, are implementing "Do Not Track". Will this suffice?CNN: Google Chrome, Firefox add "Do Not Track" features
Or have we ended up right back at self-regulation again?PC World: Firefox "Do Not Track" features has a fatal flaw