skip to main content

Privacy: Even Government Wonders Who’s Watching You


NEW YORK � Technology has moved society forward in numerous ways, but it has also been harmful to humanity. For example, for a mere $100 a stranger can buy information about your cell phone calls, your credit card usage, your online surfing habits and your driving record, New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said at a Fordham Law School symposium on Feb. 15. And it’s only going to get worse unless society can manage to harness the delicate balance between the free flow of information and personal privacy on the Internet Spitzer said. Since there is no single policy on privacy, each web site does whatever it wants in terms of privacy. “It’s very difficult to figure out the privacy policies of some of these sites,” he said. “Three very bright attorneys in my office spent hours and couldn’t figure out the privacy policy of a major corporation. This is a serious problem.” The biggest problem with data privacy is that unethical sites collect and sell consumer information without permission. Some web sites even track, through “cookies,” the places web visitors go after leaving a site. “It’s as if a third party is looking at what you’re doing without your knowledge or permission,” Spitzer said. “I believe that we need a clear, intelligible way to articulate what the rules are about privacy and I think we have to go out and enforce those rules we put in place.” Peter Swire, the White House’s chief counselor for Privacy in the Office of Management and Budget said securing privacy while online was a priority of the Administration. “People feel differently about what they perceive as invasions of privacy,” said Swire. “Topping the list, as you may imagine, is medical records.” Also highly rated by consumers is children being questioned about their homes and their parents, and financial records. “We support the free flow of information,” he said. “We have resisted implementing a rigid policy because we believe that may not be the best way to go.” Instead, consumers should participate in the process by avoiding sites that have unethical or sketchy privacy practices and “all levels of government and industry should come together to formulate a policy that will truly work for everyone.”


Comments are closed.