Friday, December 31, 2010

No doubt the Privacy Foundation will have to come up with a “Top Ten” list...

The Top 10 Privacy Stories of 2010

December 30, 2010 by Dissent

Declan McCullagh of CNET published a round-up of some of the stories that made privacy news in the U.S. this past year. But what were the top stories or the most important ones? Over on Liminal States, Jon Pincus posted his list, inspired by a Twitter privacy chat two weeks ago. A subsequent poll on Twitter drew 59 responses as to top story. Yours truly forgot to vote in time, but that’s okay.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post and on Jon’s blog, my priorities seem to be somewhat different than many of those who are also deeply concerned about privacy. In some respects, the Top 5 Privacy Violations of 2010 by Jeffrey Evans come closer to what I see as important privacy stories or developments.

So after giving it a bit more thought, here’s my list of the Top 10 Privacy Stories of 2010 for the U.S., in no particular order and for better or worse:

  • Tyler Clementi’s suicide

  • Karen Owens’ “paper” on sexual encounters goes viral and names names

  • Facebook changes everyone’s privacy settings

  • Homeland Security in Pennsylvania and their contractor surveill environmental protesters like terrorists

  • TSA introduces “enhanced” patdowns and backscatter machines that trample privacy, dignity, and civil liberties

  • Schools start fingerprinting school children and putting tracking devices on them

  • Lower Merion School District sued for recording students in their homes via webcam

  • Some courts rule that GPS surveillance and cell phone location records require warrants

  • Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repealed

  • Arizona enacts “papers, please” law

Yes, I know I don’t have most of the online tracking and regulatory stories listed. Frankly, those issues are just not as important to me. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

They will. They won't. They will. They won't.

BlackBerry denies India email access deal as struggle continues

December 30, 2010 by Dissent

Earlier today, I referenced a story from December 21 and indicated that Research in Motion had caved in to India’s demands to provide an encryption key to Blackberry email services. I’ve corrected that post in light of additional information. A story in today’s Economic Times of India resulted in a strong response from Research in Motion to set the record straight on exactly what RIM agreed to – and didn’t agree to. Josh Halliday reports:

BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion has hit back at reports that it is ready to allow Indian authorities access to customers’ highly-secure corporate emails.

The Canadian manufacturer slammed as “false and technologically infeasible” an Economic Times of India report which said that it will allow the Indian government access to all messages and emails sent by its 400,000 BlackBerry customers in the country. An internal home ministry memo, apparently seen by the paper, suggested that RIM would automatically make readable all BlackBerry communications, including encrypted enterprise emails.

RIM quickly refuted the charges, saying that only an account holder has the necessary key to decrypt the messages. But it confirmed that security authorities and mobile operators will be granted “lawful access” to the popular BlackBerry Messenger chats.

Read more in the Guardian.

My apologies to Research in Motion for misunderstanding earlier reports.


India Cracks Down on Unauthorized Communication Snooping

December 30, 2010 by Dissent

Maybe this should be filed under “irony” in light of governmental attempts to increase its own surveillance capabilities, but John Ribeiro reports:

The Indian government on Thursday said that it has discovered that private vendors, detective agencies and companies have imported equipment that is capable of illegally monitoring mobile and other communications.

In a statement through the country’s Press Information Bureau (PIB), the government has warned that under the law, no equipment can be used for unauthorized communication network monitoring, intercepting and surveillance of communications.

Read more on PCWorld.

Implications for Health Records in the Cloud?

Iowa Supreme Court upholds right to privacy of medical records

By Dissent, December 30, 2010

Michael J. Crumb of Associated Press reports on a case where grandparents seeking their adult child’s mental and physical health records as part of a visitation dispute concerning their grandson were turned away by the Iowa Supreme Court. The grandparents had sought their daughter’s records after she refused to allow them to have contact with her young son. Crumb reports that the court overturned a lower court’s ruling requiring production of the records:

A district court ordered Mulligan to produce her physical and mental health records to her parents, because the Ashenfelters had to prove their daughter was unfit to make a decision regarding grandparent visitation.

Mulligan appealed and the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision, deciding that the records were protected by Mulligan’s constitutional right to privacy.

Importantly, the court did not have to rule in this case if it chose not to, as a change in state law made the grandparents’ case moot.

But justices moved forward with ruling on the case, because “we believe individual privacy interests in medical and mental health records presents an issue of great public interest. We foresee this issue arising in the future, in the context of grandparent visitation as well as other civil contexts.”

Read more in the Chicago Tribune.


Information Sharing in Criminal Justice-Mental Health Collaborations: Working with HIPAA and Other Privacy Laws

Understanding the legal framework of information sharing is the crucial first step for jurisdictions seeking to design and implement effective criminal justice-mental health collaborations. This guide supports that first step by introducing how federal and state laws are likely to influence practitioners’ responses.

Gaming the system. “On the Internet, nobody knows you're a Democrat.”

Democrats Crowdsourcing To Vote Palin In Primaries

"In what could be the most extreme and influential crowdsourcing project ever, Democrats are beginning to organize to purposely vote for Palin in the 2012 Republican primaries. Their theory is by having Palin as an opponent, Obama will have the best odds at winning reelection. Recent polls have shown that Obama comfortably leads Palin by 10-20 points, but Obama is statistically tied with Romney and barely ahead of Huckabee. They even have a state-by-state primary voting guide to help Democrats navigate various states' rules for voting Palin in Republican primaries."

Considering Amazon's success, this isn't a surprise but I wonder about the percentages...

Study: So people do pay for online content

It's a long-standing truism that people won't pay for online content, but a new study from Pew Internet suggests otherwise.

Among the 750 Internet users in the U.S. surveyed by Pew for a study out today, 65 percent said they've paid for online content.

… Digital music and software proved to be the most popular items, with 33 percent of those questioned willing to pay for them online. Mobile apps were next in the list, with 21 percent saying they've bought them online. Other common items were digital games, magazine and newspaper stories, videos, and ringtones.

Lower on the list were cheat codes for video games and access to specific Web sites, such as online dating services. And only 2 percent admitted to buying adult content online.

How much are people willing to spend? On average, the people polled spend around $10 per month on online content. The majority (43 percent) spent amounts ranging from $1 to $10, while 25 percent said they spend between $11 and $30. And 7 percent said they spend around $100 a month.

Most (23 percent) of those surveyed said they pay for subscription services as opposed to the 16 percent who download individual files and the 8 percent who access streaming content.

Some surveys have found that many people won't pay for online content, at least not for specific types of content, such as newspaper subscriptions. But the rise in broadband is making it increasingly easier and faster for people to download and pay for the content they want, such as software, movies, music, e-books, and even news articles, according to Pew.

Record retention. Something for all my IT students. There are some very specific suggestions in the article.

Future-proof your data archive

It's easier than ever to make sure copies of your most important records, documents, photos, videos, and other personal data will be readable/viewable/playable long after the hardware and software used to create the files have bitten the dust.

The four keys to safe data archiving are to choose file formats that won't become obsolete, use storage media that won't deteriorate or become inaccessible, make multiple copies stored apart, and check your archived data regularly to ensure it's still readable.

Replacing those Bar Review courses?

BarMax, The $1,000 App (That’s Actually Worth It), Hits The iPad

It was just about a year ago that we first wrote about BarMax, an iPhone application meant to help law student pass the Bar exam.

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