The biggest privacy scandal of 2011

Privacy was all over the news this year, and there are plenty of scandals to choose from. What was the most outrageous? Read on to find out.

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At this moment the US Supreme Court is deliberating in the case of United States vs. Jones; their decision will determine whether the police have the right to attach a GPS tracking device to your car without a warrant. I don’t have a lot of confidence the Supes will rule in our favor.

Location is really the big kahuna of privacy issues. Once somebody knows where you’ve been and where you’re going, there’s very little privacy left to protect. Once some entity creates a database of your movements, it’s sure to be used in unintended ways, almost never to your benefit. And there are absolutely no rules about what private companies can do with your location data – none, zip, nada. It’s a situation ripe for abuse.

Other notable privacy stories? The News Corp voice mail hacking scandal landed high on the list (the people behind that bit of outrageousness need to be covered in honey and staked to an ant hill, imho). Google+’s well meaning but bungled attempts at policing the names people use on its service. The friction caused by Facebook’s “frictionless” sharing.

The gratifying part? People are finally talking about privacy in concrete ways – and not just the usual suspects (EFF, EPIC, CDT, ACLU). We might get some  Congressional action about mobile privacy (though probably not in an election year), and who knows? Maybe even an endorsement of fundamental privacy rights, a la the Computers Freedom and Privacy Conference’s Social Network Users Bill of Rights.

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