Report from the Data Privacy Day Forum

January 27, 2011

Data Privacy Day is an international event that engages audiences in the complex issue of privacy in the information age. At a time when the public observes a growth of cyber threats and a weakening sense of confidentiality, the event seeks to celebrate the "dignity of the individual expressed through personal information." Academics gathered at the Heinz College for a panel discussion and poster session on Wednesday.

"Federal legislation may come too late," reported the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in a January 27 article summarizing Carnegie Mellon University's event.

An excerpt from the article follows:

The recent proliferation of applications that show where users are located and the growing national anxiety over online embarrassments will most likely spur privacy protection legislation in the next year or two. But it might be too little, too late.

That was just one concern raised by five Carnegie Mellon University privacy scholars assembled on Wednesday as part of a daylong showcase on data privacy research. The event was held in anticipation of Friday's Data Privacy Day, which was authorized by Congress in 2009.

There were no name tags at the event.

Concerns over unfortunate photos or embarrassing remarks living in cyberspace could lead to a cottage industry of "personal brand management," said professor Lorrie Cranor.

She sees a business opportunity for cybersleuths who could scour the Web and delete the poor choices, if not at least make them harder for a "prospective employer or prospective date" to find, she said.

Other businesses capitalizing on online lives include data aggregators like Spokeo, said panel moderator and professor Alessandro Acquisti. Spokeo is a Pasadena, Calif.-based search engine that gathers demographic information on individuals. Applications like Spokeo aren't necessarily illegal, but they could spur national legislation that clarifies policies that currently differ state-by-state.

Read the full article "Forum Targets Online Privacy" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

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