Expect no Privacy from Social Networks

No Privacy Law: Social networks not private in court Judge rails against notions of secrecy. Privacy about to punted again when ‘balanced’ against need for govt spying.

Even without appellate case law in Pennsylvania to provide guidance on the discoverability of information on Facebook, the standard is becoming clear: Post at your own risk. Three courts in PA have now decided that, if a party in a civil case posts information on his Facebook page, and that information appears to contradict statements in discovery or testimony, then the party’s Facebook page falls within the scope of discovery.
Largent v. Reed, a Franklin County judge ordered plaintiff Jennifer Largent to turn over her Facebook username and password to defendant Jessica Rosko, who allegedly caused an auto accident that left plaintiffs Jennifer and Keith Largent with “serious and permanent physical and mental injuries.” The decision came in Common Pleas Court Judge Richard J. Walsh’s 14-page opinion, the beginning of which reads like a debriefing on the world’s most popular website. According to Judge Walsh, Ms. Largent’s Facebook page brought up questions about the extent of her injuries. Judge Walsh said there can be “little expectation of privacy” on a social networking site. He said no court has ever recognized a “general privacy privilege” for Facebook information, “and neither will we.” “Only the uninitiated or foolish could believe that Facebook is an online lockbox of secrets,” Judge Walsh said. Judge Walsh said making a Facebook page “private” does not shield it from discovery because even private posts are shared with other people.
Privacy about to punted again when ‘balanced’ against need for govt spying There was talk about balancing privacy against the online spying needs of governments and that this surveillance and tracking should not bother you if you’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide. Balance? Bite me. By Ms. Smith on Mon, 11/28/11 – 3:34pm.
With the cyber-world such as it is now, constant breaches because companies are careless and lax about protecting our personal information, it might be true what the Office of Inadequate Security pointed out, “Maybe all companies should add ‘check Pastebin’ to their daily security to-do list.” As if there’s not enough personal info dumped about us all to invade privacy, any time there is talk about security and you hear the word ‘balance’ being used, citizens’ privacy is about to be punted. This time it was in regard to online spying as being tracked by the government is, it would have you believe, for our own good to monitor and to stop all those potential terrorists and cybercrooks, not so it can build up massive databases with secret watchlists.
Such is the case of ‘balancing privacy’ against many different governments needing to track people’s online activities. At ZDNet Asia, Elle Todd, media, communications and technology group partner at law firm Olswang Asia, noted “most citizens would accept that surveillance is an important part of law enforcement” when limited to “justifiable circumstances” and not when being spied upon “just in case” you are some kind of terrorist scum or cybercrook. The ZDNet article mentions Singapore-based Shawn Lee who was asked to take down a blog post and complied, saying “I haven’t done anything wrong [and] I have nothing to hide, so it is fine that the government is tracking me.”
This is where I could not disagree more; this entire concept of not objecting to privacy invasion if you have “nothing to hide” and have “done nothing wrong” makes me want to bite someone. Most of us don’t want to live with unlimited surveillance and there are bad seeds and rogues in law enforcement who misuse and abuse their surveillance access to check on someone who has caught their attention. The wired/wireless world is setup to be anonymity-busting as it is, and full-pipe monitoring and mapping has been around for a very long time. It’s ludicrous that valuing your privacy and civil liberties, freedom from snooping, would imply a person has something to hide or that objecting to such online spying means you are up to illicit or nefarious activities. The desire to be as anonymous as possible, which really is a contradiction when online, does not imply a person is a cyber-creep. Wired’s David Kravets nailed it, “We’re paranoid not because we have grandiose notions of our se
lf-importance, but because the facts speak for themselves.”
While I disagree with innocent people’s private info floating around as a result of whacking companies and dumping data in the war against white hats, if a person were to sail over to The Pirate Bay and actually peruse this torrent, it’s not too hard to get behind the publishing of surveillance guidelines aimed at us all. Cryptome and Public Intelligence have also published the online spying guides that regular folks aren’t supposed to know about, spying that is to be ‘balanced’ against citizens’ privacy.
Remember the FBI’s claim of ‘going dark’? Yeah right, about anything accessed via Windows machines like system and user data and apps, networking, Windows Internet-related data and logs from chat programs, IE or email [PDF] can be snooped through. Besides Big Brother in your browser, the treasure-trove of data we store in the cloud, and cell phone provider data storage, what more might be needed by law enforcement? BIOS password spying [PDF], Skype Log Files [PDF], Firefox Password Spying [PDF], iPod snooping [PDF], iChat [PDF], numerous iPhone guides, or magicJack surveillance [PDF]? There’s also spy guides for MSN [PDF], Gmail 1 [PDF] and 2 [PDF], Facebook [PDF], Verizon [PDF], Time Warner Cable [PDF], Yahoo chat [PDF], World of Warcraft [PDF], Blizzard [PDF], or AOL [PDF]. It goes on and on; it’s not that it’s new by any means, simply that it seems endless and there’s talk of finding balance between spying for security reasons and your rights.
Don’t be surprised in the least to see these companies throwing around DMCA notices just as Microsoft did at Cryptome over the Microsoft Online Services Global Criminal Compliance Handbook (zip).
I don’t think most people are “ok” with surveillance or censorship. The wise ones know enough to have their hackles raise when security is “balanced” against privacy concerns. When you hear ‘balance’ you are about to lose more civil liberties and have your privacy punted for your own protection of course. Yeah, yeah yeah security theater, surveillance, and the constant erosion of privacy and civil liberty rights shouldn’t bother you if you’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide.

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