Online Privacy

Internet Porn: Ask before you look!

Lee Hadden writes "The Washington Post has an interesting article on an obscure Virginia law
that restricts Internet searching. "For Many State Workers, an Unknown Restriction Rarely Enforced Va. Law Requires Permission to See Explicit Sites." By David McGuire, washingtonpost.com Staff Writer. Tuesday, October 5, 2004; 6:30 AM

See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A623 5-2004Oct4.html

In 1996, Virginia became the only state in the country to require its employees to ask permission before looking at sexually explicit material online. Professors, social workers, and public health officials all come under the scope of the law, which only exempts law enforcement officials.
Educators challenged the law shortly after it was enacted but lost their fight to have it erased from the books in 2001, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the matter.

Sharon Hays, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia, said she wasn't aware of the law and had never been told by administrators
that she should seek permission before viewing sexually explicit material. -- Read More

The Privacy Lawyer: RFID May Be Risky Business

Anonymous Patron writes "The Privacy Lawyer: RFID May Be Risky Business is an InformationWeek Article by Parry Aftab a cyberspace lawyer, specializing in online privacy and security law. She takes a look at RFID and says as we move closer to the day when individual items by and large will be tagged, companies had better be prepared to have clear policies for how they'll handle data they may collect from consumers.In the rush to adopt RFID, businesses have not paid enough attention to legal and consumer-relations risks. And, until consumers are convinced that the benefits of RFID outweigh their privacy and security concerns, this may be a very serious risk indeed.
Can we say the same thing about libraries?"

California E-Mail Privacy Bill Passes Legislature, Heads to Governor's Desk

California Senator Debra Bowen's electronic privacy bill, SB 1841, which requires employers to notify employees before they read their employees e-mails or track Web sites they visit, is heading to the governor's desk. The measure, backed by consumer and privacy advocates, passed the Senate this week on a 23-11 vote.

Governor Schwarzenegger will have until September 30th to sign, veto, or let it become law without his signature. Read more.

Idea of Implanting ID Tags Raises Orwellian Fears

Advocates of technologies like radio frequency identification tags say their potentially life-saving benefits far outweigh any Orwellian concerns about privacy. RFID tags sewn into clothing or even embedded under people's skin could curb identity theft, help identify disaster victims and improve medical care, they say.

Critics, however, say such technologies would make it easier for government agencies to track a person's every movement and allow widespread invasion of privacy. Abuse could take countless other forms, including corporations surreptitiously identifying shoppers for relentless sales pitches. Critics also speculate about a day when people's possessions will be tagged, allowing nosy subway riders with the right technology to examine the contents of nearby purses and backpacks.
Read More.

Email Privacy Protection Not Available Under Current US Law

Protecting email communications may seem like a no brainer. After all, it is illegal in most jurisdictions to eavesdrop on telephone conversations or to open another person's mail.
However, the concept that the protection offered to these forms of private communication has been extended to email was severely harmed in a recent decision by the US Courts. Read More.

E-Mail Snooping Decision Has Wide Privacy Implications

According to a recent report byWired, a federal appeals court in Massachusetts recently ruled that Bradford C. Councilman, president of Interloc, a company that sold rare and out-of-print books to booksellers and provided customers with free e-mail accounts, did not break the law when he copied and read e-mail messages sent to customers through his server. Upholding a lower-court decision that the provider did not violate the Wiretap Act, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set a precedent for e-mail service providers to legally read e-mail that passes through their network. Read More.

Is the Boss Spying on You?

According to a 2001 survey by the American Management Association, more than 75 percent of U.S. firms record and review employee communications and activities on the job.

But companies are not just watching employees online. More than 37 percent of companies said they participate in video surveillance for security purposes, and 7.8 percent store and review employee voice-mail messages. Forty-three percent monitor employees' telephone use, including time spent on the phone and which numbers have been called. Read More.

Tag, You're It - Privacy Laws Trailing Snoopermarket Tech

In Tulsa, a woman picks up a lipstick from a discount-store display. In Cincinnati, more than 700 miles away, a team of researchers watches her turn the box over in her hands then set it on the shelf next to the display before selecting another shade. Before she walks away, they make a note of the color she rejected, and the one she put in her shopping basket.

In Cambridge, England, a display holding razor blades conceals a small camera that takes pictures whenever anyone slides out a package of blades. A tracking device embedded in the package also triggers cameras at the register and the door.

This isn't a George Orwell story. It's recent history. Each of these incidents happened. And as merchants, employers and governments perfect surreptitious surveillance, the practice could become commonplace. It's time to get control of this new technology, before it becomes a tool to control us.

At every stage of the buying game, consumers trade privacy for convenience and low prices. The use of credit and debit cards creates a detailed record of past transactions. Internet sites monitor clicks and page views. Cameras monitor the ebb and flow of traffic in a retail store. Read it here.

Feds Back Banks' Appeal of State's Financial Privacy Law

The Bush administration stepped into a lawsuit challenging California's landmark financial privacy law Wednesday, urging a federal judge to side with banks that want to overturn restrictions on how they can share customer information.

The new state law requires financial institutions to get permission from customers before giving nonaffiliated companies customers' financial information such as their bank balance or spending habits. Read all about it. [requires registration]
Here's an earlier story.

Privacy Showdown

The American Bankers Association, the Financial Services Roundtable and the Consumer Bankers Association have gone to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to try to stop a California law that restricts how they can use customer information.
The outcome of their appeal, filed Aug. 2, will decide the fate of the strictest state privacy law on the books, and the crucial issue of whether federal law preempts such state laws. Read More.

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