I Hope You Know This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record
Innovators in information services are creating fun and useful products, but in doing so, they often employ data for new and unforeseen uses, sometimes with dramatic effects for personal privacy. Increased access to information combined with aggregation and analytics tools may "out" individuals who thought they were anonymous, making an ill-considered comment on a blog or a photo from a party part of one's permanent record. Some commentators have argued that increased access and aggregation will create more transparency, and perhaps tolerance for mistakes; others warn of a scarlet-letter society where individuals are less free to express themselves for fear of future consequences, or for fear of stalking or unwanted attention. Federal, state, and private-sector approaches are underway to address unwanted consequences of access and aggregation, but technology seems to always outpace their efforts. Can information services be designed to avoid the creation of a permanent record, or will law intervene to protect individuals from their own digital droppings?
Chris Jay Hoofnagle is senior staff attorney to the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic and senior fellow with the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. His focus is consumer privacy law.
From 2000 to 2006, he was senior counsel to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and director of the organization's West Coast office. At EPIC, he concentrated on financial services privacy, telemarketing regulation and consumer profiling. He was also a non-residential fellow with Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society for the 2005 academic year.
Hoofnagle is a nationally recognized expert in information privacy law. He has testified before the U.S. Congress and the California Senate and Assembly numerous times on social security number privacy and credit transactions. The text of his written testimony is online at epic.org.