Apr 292013
 April 29, 2013  Posted by  Misc

Stewart Baker writes:

If you’re looking for laws of unintended consequences, you can’t do better than privacy.  Take two examples plucked from last week’s front pages:

Here’s the New York Times reporting on massive fraud in the billion-dollar settlement of claims that the Agriculture Department discriminated against black, Hispanic, and female farmers:

Read more on The Volokh Conspiracy.

Apr 282013
 April 28, 2013  Posted by  Featured News, Misc

Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is also a senior lecturer with the University of Chicago Law School. He has an OpEd in the New York Daily News called “Privacy is Overrated.” Here are just two snippets:

[Mayor Bloomberg] wants concerns with privacy to take second place to concerns with security.

I strongly agree, though I’m not sure that the Constitution will have to be reinterpreted in order to enable the shift of emphasis that he (and I) favor. Neither the word “privacy” nor even the concept appears anywhere in the Constitution, and the current Supreme Court is highly sensitive, as it should be, to security needs. The Court can and doubtless will adjust the balance between privacy and security to reflect the increase in long-run threats to the lives of Americans.

There is a tendency to exaggerate the social value of privacy.


Privacy-protecting laws are paternalistic; they are based on a skepticism regarding whether people can make sensible evaluations of an arrest record or other private facts that enter the public domain.

Still, a good deal of privacy just facilitates the personal counterpart of the false advertising of goods and services, and by doing so, reduces the well-being of society as a whole.

Read his entire commentary on NY Daily News.

Apr 272013
 April 27, 2013  Posted by  Court, Non-U.S., Online

Another “balancing” act opinion from the High Court:

An anti-abuse campaigner has given a High Court undertaking not to publish anything else about a child sex offender on either Facebook or any other social media.

As part of a final settlement to the convicted paedophile’s legal action, Joe McCloskey also pledged on Thursday to immediately remove all references to him from online pages under his control.

The man, who served a jail sentence for a catalogue of abuse, has now been granted permanent anonymity by a judge overseeing the resolution.

Read more on U TV.  In this case, the postings generated a number of threatening comments.  According to U TV:

Endorsing the resolution, the judge said the case was about drawing a fair and reasonable line between types of comment.

“On the one side that which is unreasonable and disproportionate, and unacceptable, offensive, intimidatory, threatening and having no legitimate aim is unlawful,” he said.

“Material which is merely offensive and harshly critical is likely to fall on the other side of the line which is considered lawful.”

So… if comments had been disabled or disallowed, information/postings naming the man and his past crimes would have stood?

Apr 272013
 April 27, 2013  Posted by  Youth & Schools

Andrew Ujifusa writes:

In my April 24 blog post on Alabama’s decision to kill anti-Common-Core legislation, I mentioned that opponents have linked the standards, without citing specifics, to technology they allege the federal government is developing to track students’ facial expressions in classroom.

However, others also have voiced concerns about student privacy involving academic data and the common core. One has recently cropped up in Louisiana, and it involves state Superintendent John White’s decision to withdraw student data from inBloom, a nonprofit organization, and to have discussions with parents in the state about privacy concerns about data being stored that included students’ age, sex, and grade level. The Louisiana controversy could also offer some lessons on how states handle privacy in education in the years ahead, with all the emphasis on tracking students’ academic progress.

Read more on State EdWatch.

More states need to have conversations with parents – before they decide whether to turn over data, not after. And they should be required to obtain opt-in informed consent from parents.  In related coverage, Ellis Booker reports:

As increasing amounts of student, class and school data are captured and analyzed, some people have started to sound alarms about potential privacy violations and other kinds of misuse.

“I think it’s totally illegitimate to take kids’ data without parental consent,” said Leonie Haimson, a parent activist and executive director of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit organization that wants smaller classes in New York City’s public schools and the nation as a whole. “If these exact same records were in a doctor’s office or hospital, it would be illegal to collect them without parental consent,” she told InformationWeek in a phone interview.

Read more on InformationWeek.