The Rising Profile of Privacy

Couple notable stories today on privacy today, one that Google is embracing the behavioral targeting techniques it got when it bought DoubleClick and a New York Times front page article putting the spotlight on the data collection that’s going on with smartphones.

Google is being very proactive in trying to head off any potential government privacy regulations by providing ways for people to see the data it collects on them, edit that data and opt out of collection.

Two years ago, those would have been unheard of steps. But now will they be enough? As Peter Kafka points out, there’s a new sensibility in Congress and it’s name is Rick Boucher. Boucher, if you’ll remember, is the guy who kept banging his head against the wall, trying to make copyright law less protectionist in the Internet age. His opinions seemed cockeyed at the time. But here he is, now in charge of a House subcommittee, and calling for regulation.

The privacy folks are praising Google’s moves, but want more emphasis put on letting people know that they’re being tracked. One example that the CDT has discussed is putting little opt out symbols on every single ad people see as they head around the Web.

And while Google is being proactive about behavioral targeting, that’s because such a spotlight has been put on that practice over the past year by Congressional hearings and the EU. The question is, what’s the approach now that companies will develop for smartphones? The privacy folks are already targeting those practices with complaints. Do we have to wait for the the feds to pay attention to that before they start to do anything?

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