Facebook's new privacy rules, America's extremely old privacy laws
Facebook wants to share more of your data with the world, while a new tech coalition wants to keep the Feds from snooping around the cloud.
There's been so much news on the social privacy front this week that I've barely had time to follow it, let alone write about it. Here are some of the highlights.
* Earlier this week Facebook posted proposed changes to its privacy policies and terms that would allow it to share more of your information with "trusted" third party business partners. The initial reaction from the blogosphere: A distinctly loud raspberry. No kidding. Given how well Facebook screens its app makers (which is to say, not at all), why should anyone trust whomever they trust?
The good news is that Facebook seems to have learned from some of the debacles of the past, where it introduced new information-sharing policies only to be forced to remove or scale them back after an uproar. So give them props for asking first. Now let's hope they listen.
* Google, Microsoft, AT&T and a bunch of consumer groups and think tanks formed the Digital Due Process coalition, which hopes to persuade Congress to overhaul the crumbling legislative relic known as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. That document puts limits on the kinds of information law enforcement agencies can collect with and without a warrant. But it's so old it predates many of the technologies we rely on each day, including blogs, GPS-enabled cell phones, and social networks.
This group wants to change that, and given the Obama administration's professed desire to improve our privacy protections, now's a good time to push for it. If you spend any time at all on social media and/or keep at least some of your data in the cloud (and these days, who doesn't?) you'll want them to update the ECPA, too.
* Today, CNN published a story that reads so much like my last two blog posts I'd swear reporter Doug Gross read my last two blog posts. He writes about Facebook apps and quizzes, and how they can cull information from you without your being aware of it or agreeing to participate. Facebook's response? They "have very strict rules" about what data apps may collect; but Facebook only investigates whether app developers are following the rules when people complain. And if you don't know whether an app that one of your friends installed is collecting your data, how likely are you to complain?
The good news here: This kind of story is reaching the mainstream media. The more people who realize Facebook apps and quizzes are a privacy nightmare waiting to happen, the more likely Facebook will have to do something about them.
* A new site called "Unvarnished" has launched in a limited alpha. Unvarnished allows anyone to post anonymous "reviews" of people, which said people cannot remove. It's been described by some as "LinkedIn meets Yelp" and by others as an endless gift to defamation attorneys. I'll have more to say on that in a future post, once I can convince them to let me in on the fun. In the meantime, Eveyln Rusli, who recently left Forbes.com to write and do video for TechCrunch, has a pretty good summary of it.