Saturday, September 28, 2013

Federal judge's preliminary ruling on gmail and privacy may tale potential legal liabilities for service providers too far

Should it be regarded as illegal wiretapping for a service provider to look at the contents of email in order to target advertising to subscribers?
Timothy B. Lee has an analysis on the Washington Post Switch Blog about a decision by California federal Judge Lucy Koh regarding the way Google “reads” gmail, and as to whether it is properly asked consumers for permission.  It’s a preliminary ruling  (on a Motion to Dismiss) which will go to trial and probably appeals process. But there is a possibility of imposing more potential downstream liability exposure to service providers for artificial privacy law violations.  Lee’s article is here.  Wired has a copy of the ruling PDF here. There seems to be a concern over whether comprehensive "privacy policies" that companies have implemented meet legal consumer notification requirements.   

Microsoft Outlook has been "exploiting" the stories about users being "scroogled" in its own commercials for Outlook email on CNN.  I've never gotten around to using Outlook much, largely because it used to be a major target of malware, but not recently/ 
I don’t have any problems myself with the privacy practices of any providers (Google, Facebook, Twitter), but that may be a reflection of my own social insularity.  At lot of people have more sensitive circumstances than I do.  I also don’t share personal material on “differentiated lists”.  I guess I live in Dr. Phil’s world.

It's worthy of note that these blogs have "privacy policies" on their pages. Possibly the requirements for these policies could eventually be affected by rulings like this.  These policies became required of bloggers with ads in 2009.   

This ruling seems to be separate from "do not track". 
I don’t see any news that suggests a coming government shutdown will affect any social media or publishing in any visible way – the government is supposed to “protect” the power grid, although that ought to be the result of much more proactive stance by utilities.  But shutdowns (and that doesn’t even mention the debt ceiling, which I have discussed elsewhere a lot) could seem tantalizing to enemies and increase the risk of catastrophic attacks, which do destroy individual lives.  Is it required of us to change our lives because of other people’s agendas?

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