Risk
3/30/2011
02:05 PM
50%
50%

Schwartz On Security: Online Privacy Battles Advertising Profits

Do businesses have the right to make money from the unregulated buying and selling of personal information?

That golden goose may go bye-bye if the government enshrines a person's right to online privacy. The White House is backing stronger privacy rights, as are three bills pending in the House and one in the Senate.

What might such legislation look like? Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are co-sponsoring a "Privacy Bill of Rights." While the bill is still a work in progress, a recently leaked, draft version aims to regulate organizations that use, transfer, or otherwise handle personally identifiable information (PII) or unique identifier information relating to 5,000 or more people per year.

"Some provisions require businesses to comply with specific obligations when dealing with 'sensitive' PII, which is defined as PII which, if lost, compromised, or disclosed without authorization, could 'result in harm to an individual,'" said attorney Nicole Friess, an associate at Information Law Group, in a blog post.

Fines would run $16,500 per day, multiplied either by the number of days of noncompliance or the number of people harmed. "However, liability is capped at $2 million or $3 million depending on the nature of the violation," she said.

But many questions remain unanswered, such as what constitutes "tracking" or "harm." For example, in its comment on the FTC's privacy framework, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University made the humorous, but often true, observation: "How Do We Conduct Cost-Benefit Analysis When 'Creepiness' Is the Alleged Harm?" noted attorney Richard Santalesa, senior counsel at Information Law Group, in a blog post.

In fact, the Mercatus comment argues that consumers stand to gain more than they lose from tracking. "Importantly, nothing in the Commission's proceeding has thus far demonstrated that online data collection and 'tracking' represent a clear harm to consumers per se, or that any 'market failure' exists here," it said. "Such a showing would be difficult since using data to deliver more tailored advertising to consumers can provide important benefits to the public.

So let's put the question out there: Is better advertising worth the potential tradeoff of anyone being able to buy detailed information about your browsing habits, income, or medical conditions? Because with luck, you'll be able to decide.


Previous
2 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-8142
Published: 2014-12-20
Use-after-free vulnerability in the process_nested_data function in ext/standard/var_unserializer.re in PHP before 5.4.36, 5.5.x before 5.5.20, and 5.6.x before 5.6.4 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted unserialize call that leverages improper handling of duplicate keys w...

CVE-2013-4440
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 generates weak non-tty passwords, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the password via a brute-force attack.

CVE-2013-4442
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 uses weak pseudo generated numbers when /dev/urandom is unavailable, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the numbers.

CVE-2013-7401
Published: 2014-12-19
The parse_request function in request.c in c-icap 0.2.x allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a URI without a " " or "?" character in an ICAP request, as demonstrated by use of the OPTIONS method.

CVE-2014-2026
Published: 2014-12-19
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the search functionality in United Planet Intrexx Professional before 5.2 Online Update 0905 and 6.x before 6.0 Online Update 10 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the request parameter.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.