Forum targets online privacy
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The recent proliferation of applications that show where users are located and the growing national anxiety over online embarrassments will most likely spur privacy protection legislation in the next year or two. But it might be too little, too late.
That was just one concern raised by five Carnegie Mellon University privacy scholars assembled on Wednesday as part of a daylong showcase on data privacy research. The event was held in anticipation of Friday's Data Privacy Day, which was authorized by Congress in 2009.
There were no name tags at the event.
Concerns over unfortunate photos or embarrassing remarks living in cyberspace could lead to a cottage industry of "personal brand management," said professor Lorrie Cranor.
She sees a business opportunity for cybersleuths who could scour the Web and delete the poor choices, if not at least make them harder for a "prospective employer or prospective date" to find, she said.
Other businesses capitalizing on online lives include data aggregators like Spokeo, said panel moderator and professor Alessandro Acquisti. Spokeo is a Pasadena, Calif.-based search engine that gathers demographic information on individuals. Applications like Spokeo aren't necessarily illegal, but they could spur national legislation that clarifies policies that currently differ state-by-state.
State guidelines can vary in how much information an Internet provider can disclose about its customers or whether an employer can snoop on e-mail without first telling a worker. Many large companies have encouraged setting national standards instead of having to abide by a mish-mash of state rules, said Dr. Cranor.
Even as location-sharing applications like FourSquare grow in popularity, Carnegie Mellon researcher and panel member Norman Sadeh has found that most consumers want the ability to filter who sees where they are.
One Carnegie Mellon spinoff, Zipano Technologies, has developed a software application that addresses that concern. For example, some settings allow only friends to find where you are on the weekends. Dr. Sadeh is chief scientist at the company.
Additional Data Privacy Day events can be found at http://dataprivacyday2011.org, and the event counts tech companies like Intel and Google as sponsors.
In related privacy news, Black Box Network Services announced Wednesday that it has added to its networking products a new range of security units designed to prevent data leakage and electronic snooping.
The Lawrence-based digital communications company said the ServSwitch applications will provide "military-grade security," referencing yet another sector that has seen major breaches in the past year.
First Published January 27, 2011 12:00 am