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Yes, let’s look at mobile, cloud privacy. But don’t stop there

Submitted by on Tuesday, 30 March 2010 No Comment
The most important point to come out of a diverse coalition that's callings for tighter electronic privacy laws: Officials should be able to access "communications that are not readily accessible to the public only with a search warrant."

That would mean no more FBI arm-twisting of phone companies. No more covert databases of Americans' cell phone records.

The coalition also wants to ban "everything but the kitchen sink" subpoenas that ask for, say, records of everyone who searched for a specific term on a certain day.

So far, so good. The coalition - which, according to CNet includes everyone from Google and Microsoft to liberals and conservatives - has done a lot of thoughtful work and its proposals are solid. Of course many members have financial stakes in the issue. While today's CNet article didn't mention data retention, the longer required periods that law enforcement wants clearly would cost many companies a pretty penny in both equipment, storage and personnel. The companies also have every incentive to make consumers more comfortable with cloud computing, and it will take some hefty privacy measures to make that happen.

It's also more than a little disingenuous that an Internet service provider such as AT&T would support the coalition while simultaneously climbing in bed with the Recording Industry Association of America in its pursuit of online pirates everywhere. Even if the alleged pirates are machines that can't even access the Internet.

The biggest disappointment, though, in what otherwise is an impressive coalition: eBay appears to be a sole  merchant among the group, which is called Digital Due Process.

Where's Amazon? Likely somewhere selling your data. Or maybe working on more-covert cookies to track your every move across the Web through its subsidiary Alexa. True, Amazon claims it doesn't sell information to outside parties, but then it throws in affiliated business as an exception. Heaven knows the list of affiliates is lengthy.

Oh, and it trades information with its subsidiaries. Those now include a data-mining company.

Yes, the coalition's proposals are much-needed changes that would catch the law up to technology. But unless etailers get on board - or are dragged on kicking and screaming - Americans still won't have the privacy they should be able to expect.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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