The US Congress is asking more questions about consumer privacy and email collection/surveillance at a time when President Obama is highlighting cybersecurity. So when asked about consumer’s opt-out from personal data collection, Yahoo! privacy chief’s admitted that fewer than 1% opted-out and Google’s deputy general counsel didn’t even know how many users opted-out. Of course the primary reason virtually no one chooses the opt-out is a lack of understanding about much privacy individuals actually have on the Internet and a false sense of security and privacy.

Behavior Advertising

A recent privacy blog discussed the February 2009 Federal Trade Commission Staff Report entitled “Self-Regulatory Principles For Online Behavioral Advertising,” and the opt-out questions posed by Congress are at the heart of whether new Internet privacy laws are required. The Internet economy, and certainly Google is chief example, are dependent upon the current behavioral advertising model and surely will be impacted by a change in the privacy laws in the US.

eMail Surveillance

Most US citizens believe that their emails are private. However employee privacy regarding emails in the workplace (not personal webmail) may be misplaced since in the US emails are private to employers and in the EU, Canada, and other countries emails are private to the employees. Nevertheless there are more questions being asked in Congress about how many e-mails are being collected in the name of security. The recent report that National Security Agency exceed its authority by intercepting emails and phone calls continues to be debated in Congress. Given President Obama’s cybersecurity agenda it will be interesting to see how the US congress can reconcile the expectation of personal privacy and need for Internet security. These debates will continue as the Internet evolves. Stay tuned for more.

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