Big Data

When “All About You” Isn’t Much About You at All

By Jedidiah Bracy, CIPP/US, CIPP/E

After much rumination, I “took the plunge” today and signed in to Acxiom’s new “About The Data” portal. For those who are not familiar, Acxiom is one of the world’s largest data aggregators. They create digital dossiers of people based on publicly available data, survey data and other “general data from other commercial entities,” and sell it to marketers trying to sell us stuff. They were also, not coincidentally, arguably the first company to have a CPO —I detailed their efforts here.

And this week, they became the first so-called data broker to offer consumers a portal into what they’ve collected.

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Opinion

Sensationalist Headlines Might Drive Page Views, but Not Good Privacy Law or Policy

By Tanya Forsheit, CIPP/US

Skimming through my daily privacy law newsfeeds last week, I came across the following headline on multiple occasions:  Google says e-mail users have “no reasonable expectation of privacy.” In quotes. Meaning Google actually said that. “Really?” I thought. That can’t be right. I bet Google did not actually say that. 

Guess what? Google did not actually say that. 

I’ll preface the rest of this piece by making clear that I am not in the business of defending or apologizing for Google. Those who know me well know that’s not the case. Not in the least. But what happened last week reaches far beyond Google and demonstrates the folly of letting the media drive the privacy debate in this country—and, consequently, the development of privacy law and policy.

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Opinion

410,000 Lavabit Users Weren’t Edward Snowden

By Andrew Clearwater, CIPP/US

Lavabit founder Ladar Levison shut down his company rather than cooperate with a government investigation. Recent reports indicated that Lavabit’s secure e-mail service included NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden among its users. Now the Lavabit website shows only a letter stating in part: “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.” It seems that Lavabit has lived up to its mission to be the “e-mail service that never sacrifices privacy for profits.”

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Navigate

Making the Case for Online Obscurity and Less Anonymity…Wait, huh?

By Jedidiah Bracy, CIPP/US, CIPP/E
From the blog Shea Allen Says…

Privacy has a problem.

That’s what Prof. Woodrow Hartzog told participants at our Navigate event earlier this summer. What does he mean by this? Is privacy dead? Well, no. Not necessarily. “The problem with privacy,” he said, “is that it doesn’t really mean anything; it has ceased to be an effective term to guide policy because it can mean so many different things.”

Besides such a protean definition, our traditional view of the public/private dichotomy is also part of the problem. Did you post “that comment” on Facebook last night? Oh, you did? Well, then, it’s not private. Or should it be? Why does it have to be either/or?

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Opinion

Privacy and the City

By David Hoffman, CIPP/US

I have written on the need for adequate privacy protections to allow individuals to exercise their Right to Fail. For people to come together to collaborate and innovate, we need to make certain individuals can try new ideas. We need people to take risks and often fail, without running the risk that every failure will be catalogued forever in a virtual permanent record and those failures will be retrievable with a simple Internet search or report from a data aggregator/broker. People are inherently social and want to collaborate and innovate, but we need to create the right privacy policy environment to both foster that innate desire and protect individuals from counterproductive consequences from our social nature.

Edward Glaeser wrote on just this topic in his excellent book, Triumph of the City: How our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier . The book describes how cities have historically been the engines of innovation as they bring people together to collaborate and create.

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