Privacy matters: Tech opposes 'Right to Know Act,' plus watching cops and workers

Once again, we’re at the corner of tech and privacy:

First, a follow-up on proposed legislation we blogged about last week: Silicon Valley companies are reportedly voicing their opposition to the Right to Know Act. The proposed California bill, which is supported by advocacy groups such as the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, would require companies to disclose what personal information they have collected and shared about their customers. For example, it would require Facebook and Google to reveal what data they have shared with third-party apps. The Wall Street Journal reports that industry groups such as TechNet — which counts Facebook and Google among its members — have written the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, telling her the bill would be burdensome and “costly” to businesses.

Then there is tracking made possible by technological advances, something the Merc’s Heather Somerville also wrote about last week.

• Watching Big Brother: Cops are wearing video cameras that allow their interactions with civilians to be recorded, similar to cameras in patrol cars that do the same thing. Some officers don’t like being watched when they’re working, but as reported in the New York Times over the weekend, it’s being sold as a way for them to fight back. After all, civilians record cops. Having cops record contact with the public means they can protect themselves against false accusations of misconduct. In a test in the California city of Rialto, the number of complaints against the police dropped sharply after officers started wearing the cameras. The ACLU likes it for that purpose, but worries about what police might do with the video content if it is retained.

• Watching workers and their weight: Employers would be able to see whether their employees — in aggregate, not individually — are making healthy choices under a new program called NutriSavings, which would allow companies to offer their workers savings at the grocery store depending on what kind of food they buy. Wired reports that workers could get rebates of up to $30 a month under the program, which would theoretically help reduce health care costs for employers. The program would be voluntary and hinge on people’s comfort with sharing their shopping habits in exchange for saving some money. Then again, many of us already do so when  when we sign up for a Safeway club card or something similar. But NutriSavings throws employers and health insurers into the mix.

 

Photo of cameras atop a Novato police car by Marin Independent Journal

Levi Sumagaysay Levi Sumagaysay (3813 Posts)

Levi Sumagaysay is editor of the combined SiliconBeat and Good Morning Silicon Valley. She also helps take care of SiliconValley.com, the Mercury News tech website. Email: lsumagaysay (at) bayareanewsgroup (dot-com).