New approaches needed to protect data privacy: Researchers
Researchers demonstrate an urgent need to review and replace old ways of regulating data and information.
Amid an outcry over Facebook's privacy issues, a new legal framework is required to better identify what information is worthy of robust protection, scientists say.
Facebook's current privacy crisis and questions about how Google gathers, uses and stores our personal information demonstrate an urgent need to review and replace inadequate and outdated ways to regulate data and information.
"Existing information governance is haphazard and often limited by sector," said Anjanette Raymond, an associate professor at Indiana University in the US.
"Current regulation, or case law, fails to fully consider the nuisances of ubiquitous information flows," Raymond wrote in Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice.
"The current system seeks to cram new data-related issues into existing legal frameworks, which are designed for paper and pencil and simple single-step technology," she said.
Raymond offers an approach to managing data that includes ruling out the traditional use of privacy and property laws when it comes to digital information.
"It is almost silly to argue for privacy protections when you are posting stuff to the public on Facebook and other social media outlets," she said.
"We have to think about everything we share as containing tonnes of data and information that can be extracted and shared amongst a lot of different people. Regulation must reflect this reality," said Raymond.
For example, there is a lot of data associated with simply posting a picture to your profile. Looking at the current Facebook crisis, Raymond said Cambridge Analytica's use of data from various Facebook apps really is not much different; they just gathered the information into a single source.
"People are frustrated, feeling they were tricked to give away information as they engaged with activities on third-party apps," she said.
"This sentiment is strong, yet everyone must understand that everything you post, click, like -everything you do - creates data that others can use.
"And scraping data is not extraordinarily difficult, so posting data at one place makes that data and information available to many," said Raymond.
Instead of using privacy as a guiding principle, Raymond said it is more appropriate to use a model based upon the use of the data and the impact that using, sharing, re-sharing and potential loss will have on individuals. She said it is important to keep in mind that much of the data at issue is information that social media sites require to verify users' identity. They require users to provide key and often sensitive information, and users do not have an option to opt-out.
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