The Week in Privacy


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small_3947339012Internet users familiar with Bill Gates – but privacy policies, not so much

More than 80 percent of American adults can identify Bill Gates in a photograph. But, Pew Research says, only about half that percentage know that companies with privacy policies don’t always keep user information confidential.

Many people appear confused about what a company privacy policy entails, Pew staffers told PCWorld. And public awareness of corporate privacy policies hasn’t changed much over the years.

“Despite all of the data breaches, news stories, and policy discussions that have been happening around this issue over the last decade,” Pew researcher Aaron Smith said, “Americans are not substantially more informed about this subject than they were a decade ago.”

On privacy protection, action doesn’t match rhetoric

Americans’ knowledge of corporate privacy policies may be lacking – but at least a majority of us know enough to be concerned about our own online privacy, a Canadian survey finds. Still, not many people are doing anything about it.

The Centre for International Governance Innovation, a think tank, learned that seven in 10 Americans are worried that their photos or messages may get hacked. Yet, CIGI says, just over one-third of people have taken action to improve their online privacy or security.

International bodies link privacy to human rights

Two major intergovernmental organizations have come out in support of robust privacy rules, saying privacy is tantamount to a human right in the internet age.

A United Nations committee unanimously passed a resolution calling on UN member states to show more respect for citizen privacy, the ACLU reports on its privacy blog. And a European Parliament representative, speaking at the London School of Economics, called online privacy the “new frontier” of human rights.

Yet the official, Claude Moraes, was quick to note that security experts must do more to disseminate the message that privacy matters.

“It’s very different from other human rights issues – it’s one where we have to educate others because they will not always see the importance of it,” TechCrunch quoted him as saying.

NSA privacy chief engages public, receives lukewarm response

The National Security Agency’s recently appointed head of privacy took to Tumblr to discuss the NSA’s privacy protections, to a less than enthusiastic response.

Rebecca Richards’ answers, The Hill reports, hewed closely to past NSA rhetoric. And one Tumblr user even asked her whether her job was anything more than a sham.

“This is a real job,” Richards said in response to the question, “Is this all a joke?”

The NSA’s surveillance practices began receiving more scrutiny after last year’s revelations of domestic intelligence gathering by former agency contractor Edward Snowden.

In other Snowden news…

The very same Edward Snowden receives an award this week for advancing the conversation on privacy and government surveillance.

The prize, The Right Livelihood Award, is given by a private Swedish foundation as a kind of “alternative” Nobel Prize, Sweden’s The Local says. Snowden, who has sought asylum in Russia, joined the award ceremony via teleconference and called for stronger global action on privacy protection.

“There is so much more to do … and together we will achieve it,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office via photopin cc.

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