Happy Belated Data Privacy Day!

data privacyYesterday was Data Privacy Day. I can’t believe I missed it. It probably slipped by me while I was carefully deleting my browser history, cookie cache, old social media accounts, personal photos and every bit of contact information from the web. Whew, that was quite a job.

While I was doing that, sites all over the internet were posting reports to show how seriously they take this issue of internet privacy.

Google updated their transparency report this month to include a breakdown of legal requests by type. You can now see how many subpenas and search warrants were issued. They recieved 21,389 requests for information from July to December of 2012.

  • 68 percent of the requests Google received from government entities in the U.S. were through subpoenas. These are requests for user-identifying information, issued under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”), and are the easiest to get because they typically don’t involve judges.
  • 22 percent were through ECPA search warrants. These are, generally speaking, orders issued by judges under ECPA, based on a demonstration of “probable cause” to believe that certain information related to a crime is presently in the place to be searched.
  • The remaining 10 percent were mostly court orders issued under ECPA by judges or other processes that are difficult to categorize.

Twitter gave their transparency report a nifty new URL and expanded the amount of detail you can find the report. In the area of legal requests, they complied with 69% and 20% were “under seal” meaning they were legally barred from notifying the account holder that their data was being turned over to the courts.


Facebook launched their Ask the CPO program. Chief Privacy Officer of Policy Erin Egan answered questions from Facebook users including:

How does Facebook think about privacy when building its products?

We think about and work on privacy around the clock here at Facebook and we incorporate it into every stage of our product development. At Facebook we have two Chief Privacy Officers – I focus on policy, and my colleague Michael Richter focuses on product. But everyone at Facebook is responsible for privacy, and we work closely with teams across the company to analyze the privacy implications of every product we build from the start of product development through launch.

I’m not calling anyone a liar, but I find it hard to believe that a Facebook user actually submitted that question, phrased that way. And since Egan is picking and choosing which questions to answer, this whole program is really just for show.

The State of Maryland opened the doors on their new Internet Privacy Protection Unit. Part of their responsibility will be to enforce privacy rules covered under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. On the topic of lying about your age to gain access to Facebook, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said,

“We have to decide whether or not we need to make it technically harder to lie about your age, or whether we need a kind of Facebook Jr. for kids that comes with higher privacy walls that they could use with their parents’ permission. Only, we couldn’t call it Facebook Jr. because then no one would want to use it.”

More power to you and all the states dealing with these tricky new issues.

Have you deleted your browser history today?

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Happy Belated Data Privacy Day!

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