Privacy roundup: Kids erasing online tracks; FISA court; cops and suspicious activity

Once again we find ourselves standing at the corner of privacy and policy:

• California dreamin’? A so-called eraser bill in the Golden State has a provision intended to give kids a chance at online do-overs. The bill, poised to become law next month and effective in 2015, would give children a legal right to ask companies to delete tweets, photos and other things they have posted online.

“Kids and teenagers often self-reveal before they self-reflect,” James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, an advocacy group that pushed for SB 568, told the New York Times. (And let’s face it, so do some adults.)

So it’s all good, then. Kids will be able to lead their lives happily ever after once they’ve deleted their indiscretions, right? Not so fast. First, Web companies would not be required to delete the information from their servers. Also, there is no going back once a post is seen or a photo is shared by others, or goes viral. For example, we’ve written about the Texas teen who was jailed over what he says was a sarcastic threat to kill schoolkids; his post was seen by a woman who reported it to authorities.

The eraser bill, written by State Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, also brings up other questions: Is it a good idea for laws that try to rein in the Internet? (Europeans, by the way, are pushing for a sweeping “right to be forgotten” online law.) If other states follow California’s lead but have different provisions, how will companies keep track? The NYT mentions that some critics worry about the possibility that this could expose children’s posts to more scrutiny by Web companies. And Dane Jasper, CEO of Bay Area-based ISP, has said it’s tough to determine Internet users’ age.

• Elsewhere, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., introduced a bill that aims to boost privacy protections against NSA spying. The bill would allow non-government lawyers to argue cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The bill also would make it easier for others to file with the FISA court, according to Hillicon Valley.

• What are those law enforcement “fusion centers” that gather data from agencies’ suspicious-activity reports doing with that data? Reports from fusion centers in the central and southern parts of California were released after requests by the ACLU. As Bay Area News Group’s Thomas Peele and Josh Richman write, in about 50 percent of more than 1,800 cases, the FBI ended up interviewing the people engaged in “suspicious” activities. Some of the activities seen in the report: a trucker flying an American flag upside down, a professor taking photos in an industrial area, Middle Eastern males buying water. Says the ACLU: The government “should not be putting us in databases as potential terrorists when we have nothing to hide and haven’t done anything wrong.”


Photo from Reuters archives


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