CDT: Stronger Laws Needed to Protect Privacy

A new report by the Center for Democracy & Technology details a widening gap between the technology that collects sensitive personal data and the laws designed to protect that data against government misuse. The National Security Agency’s domestic spying program, the Justice Department’s efforts to obtain millions of Internet search records, the government’s use of cell phones to track suspects, and other developments highlight the law’s failure to keep pace with technological advances, according to “Digital Search & Seizure: Updating Privacy Protections to Keep Pace with Technology” [PDF]. From the report’s introduction:

Information and communications technologies are changing so rapidly that they are outpacing the law’s privacy protections. Services like online storage of email and location capabilities built into cell phones offer tremendous convenience but also generate large amounts of data revealing our thoughts, associations and whereabouts. Personal information held by service providers is accessible to the government under weak standards based on outdated Supreme Court decisions. The major federal law on surveillance was written in 1986, before the World Wide Web even existed. Courts and Congress should respond. The Internet and communications industry, public interest organizations and the government need to enter into a dialogue aimed at ensuring that the fundamental right of privacy is protected in the face of technological change.

While I fully agree with the CDT’s call for stronger laws “to ensure that Americans retain their constitutional privacy protections,” efforts can and must also be made to ensure the value-sensitive design of communication and information technologies to ensure that the privacy of one’s personal infrormation is protected.

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