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Privacy and security online: What is the corporate impact?
In June 2013, Edward Snowden fueled the debate on privacy and democracy in the digital age. He was called everything from a traitor to a hero when he revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been eavesdropping on private citizens through cell phones, laptops, Facebook
, chat-rooms and more. One of the first documents released by Snowden showed that the NSA was collecting telephone records from millions of customers of Verizon
, one of the largest U.S. telecommunications providers.
The Snowden affair raises a number of questions pertaining to consumer privacy and security rights. NSA officials and other intelligence agencies claim that these activities are constitutional and occur under the umbrella of rigorous congressional and judicial oversight, and that it’s essential in order to protect the public from terrorist attacks. But civil liberties groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union warn that this type
of surveillance goes beyond what Congress intended and violates constitutional rights. At the heart of the issue is whether or not Americans have rights when it comes to protecting their personal data. A number of laws and regulations pertaining to this are currently being debated that will likely affect how corporations collect and maintain consumer data.Last year, President Obama introduced the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights to protect consumer rights online. In the report, the President noted that “[never] has privacy been more important than today, in the age of the Internet, the World Wide Web and smartphones.”
The legislation is designed to give consumers a clear understanding of what to expect from companies that handle their personal information and defines basic principles for companies that use personal data, and now many companies wonder what this means and how it will be implemented. In the meantime, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) continues to enforce the existing regulations designed to protect consumer rights. As of October 2013, the FTC has brought 47 legal actions against organizations that have violated consumers’ privacy rights, or misled them by failing to maintain security for sensitive consumer information. Most of the cases violated the Federal Trade
1 Powell, Kenton, and Greg Chen. “NSA Files Decoded: Edward Snowden’s Surveillance Revelations Explained.” The Guardian. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/nov/01/ snowden-nsa-ﬁles-surveillance-revelations-decoded>. 2 Meece, Mickey. “President Obama’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.”
. Forbes Magazine, 23 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2013. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/mickeymeece/2012/02/23/president-obamas-consumer-privacy-bill-of-rights/>.