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Privacy Concerns in the Changing Face of the Internet and Technology

The technological advancements and the ever-expansive world of cyberspace are in a perpetual state of conflict with individual privacy concerns. For example, a recent research project by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology demonstrates that independent component analysis allows companies to track changes in pulse by the subsequent change in skin color that is readily visible through a video signal. In addition, employers, credit agencies, and health insurance providers can now purchase indexes that contain consumer profiles based on individual consumer’s browsing history, site membership, and online purchases.

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a report that proposes the steps companies can take to ensure optimal protection of consumer privacy. The report, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: Recommendations for Businesses and Policymakers,” urges companies to incorporate privacy protection in every stage of their products, provide a mechanism against online activity tracking, and fully disclose what user information it shares with other entities.

The California legislature has proposed a new bill that would impose new restrictions on social networking sites, which would limit the information available about users. The proposed legislation would allow users to select privacy settings before ever using the site, which limits the sites accessibility. Social Networking sites, such as Facebook, have responded that such legislation would inappropriately burden the sites, in turn devastating cyber-business in California.

The American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) is also heavily involved in efforts to compel companies to improve privacy protection measures on their respective websites. Digital Due Process, a broad coalition that includes the ACLU, Google, and AT&T, is working with legislatures and law enforcement agencies to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”). Congress enacted the ECPA in 1986 as a means of extending government restrictions on telephone wiretaps to include electronic transmissions via computers. However, in the changing face of the Internet, the ECPA has failed to keep up. Congress has not updated the ECPA to reflect the privacy concerns that exist today because of the existence of the Internet. The mission of the Digital Due Process includes efforts to initiate changes that will restrict sharing of users’ location and limit electronic communication tracking.

In 2011, Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act. The amendment will establish heightened privacy protections for email content and electronic communications that would otherwise be subject to search warrants under the guise of probable cause. Growing security concerns and the threat of cyber-terrorism have caused government officials to increase cyber security for the purpose of maintaining national security.

At the Law Offices of Salar Atrizadeh, we guide our clients in matters related to Business, Internet and Cyberspace by using legal knowledge and skills to create solutions for our clients. Please contact us today to set up a confidential consultation.