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Do you depend on Google?

Or are you addicted to Facebook? Do you have a Gmail, Twitter, del.icio.us, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, or Second Life account? How much time do you spend online? Have you ever considered the ramifications of posting detailed information, or that your blackberry can track your location and in some cases that data is used to help target you with advertisement? For many people (especially younger people) the answer would be yes, yes, yes…no and no.

In the past 5 years we have witness a radical and innovative transformation in how we use the internet and the societal norm for “personal? public data. Ten years ago it would have been a nightmare for a youngster to have a friend find a personal diary, now blogs and Facebook accounts are filled with users inner most thoughts. We find information through YouTube and Google Scholar, all of which help contribute to access to data. In terms of our usage, cookies track where we have surfed, service providers store information for extended periods of time, Google scans your mail and targets advertisements to your interests and Facebook owns the photos that you post. I can track how many people open the emails I send from the program I use for email promotion.

With this data websites are becoming more user friendly and government officials have been given cost effective ways to interface with their constituencies. But also with this information, record labels have sued students for downloading music. State medical boards have suspended licenses for blog posts that violate HIPAA laws and as of today at 2:20 Barack Obama has 554,710 wall posts and 3,949,962 supporters on his Facebook profile (which does not have a direct impact but highlights issues surrounding government retention of data).

Currently there is not clear federal regulation on consumer online privacy, and the last Minnesota State law was passed in 2002. Countries such as Argentina, Canada and European Unions have data protection commissioners, a step which the Obama administration has called to develop and with his commitment to regulatory scrutiny is a path that he may follow.

The underlying question to current online practices is whether many of these techniques infringe on our personal liberty. If you can’t dig through someone’s physical mailbox, is it really appropriate for Google to use its current marketing strategies, even it is just and impersonal program that sifts through your data? Questions of how the government can use data is also far more central then it has ever been before. Despite the fact that many agencies have privacy officers the increasing level of information highlights the need for consistent regulation.

Join the center this coming Monday for a discussion on this issues and more in-depth look at policy. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVP is required. Please email cstpp@umn.edu. If you cannot take a full day we will be streaming through a platform that allows questions. Simply follow this link.

Comments

interesting read, though where u say "is it really appropriate for Google to use its current marketing strategies"
do you not feel that with google doing this, that the consumer will get relevant adds for his/her lifestyle making it a win-win situation. as google doesnt waste ads and the consumer getting the product they want?

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Luca,

Good question. I had originally intended the question to be rhetorical. We were discussing this subject the next day. While I do like customization, especially how Facebook allows you to vote on whether you like an ad or not, there is still an ethical question about how they acquire that information. You can find our conference material online.
http://www.hhh.umn.edu/centers/stpp/MinnesotaPrivacySymposium.html

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
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