Privacy is a major concern for me. I bet it is for you too, it seems like everywhere you turn there is a story about someone getting their identity stolen, government spying or scam artists stealing your personal information. I’m especially worried about it because I put my name out there for people to see.
Fortunately we have seen the government take some essential steps toward protecting your privacy with the McCain-Kerry act. Also known as the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011, this law is designed to protect you from online spies that are trying to steal and sell your information for marketing and tracking purposes.
The bill allows you to ‘opt-out’ of the tracking devices that watch your every move on the internet and then sell your information and browsing habits to advertisers. Here are some highlights of the bill:
- Opt-outs: you’ll be able to tell companies and marketers that you don’t want to be tracked. This is standard practice for many reputable companies now, but under this legislation it would be required for all companies, online and offline.
- Opt-ins: for sensitive personal and financial information, you would have to actually opt-in for companies to be able to sell and trade that information.
- Data minimization: companies will be required to only gather the information they need for a purchase. They will also be required to verify that third party vendors are not using customer information inappropriately.
- Enforcement: both state attorneys general and the FTC will be able to prosecute companies that break these laws. As it is now its very ambiguous about what the FTC can get involved in.
While this sounds good, we have to remember this is the government so you know it will be flawed. Here are some big problems with this law:
- Government exemption: The biggest flaw of course is that the government is not included in its new rules. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, since the government has its spy loopholes and will protect those at all costs.
- Facebook exemption: The law doesn’t include social media sites, which is one of the main offenders of personal privacy in the first place. This is a major oversight and undermines the entire need for an online privacy law.
- Action required: You have to actually opt-out of these practices to have it take effect. If the legislator were truly concerned about privacy, they would place an outright ban on these practices and make the offenders do the work , instead of you.
So, as usual, it’s a flawed bill. And of course the opposition is raising hell saying it will be the end of free content on the internet. They claim that advertisers pay for the internet and that without these tools content providers will have to start charging money.
This seems oversimplified at best, and I’ll take my chances with protecting my own privacy and keeping these spies out of my computer – and my life.