The Week in Privacy – September 25, 2009

Targeted Ads Targeted by Congress

The long-running battle over behavioral ads is heating up again on Capitol Hill.  Forbes reports that, “Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, says he is working on a bill that would outline broad restrictions on certain types of data collection and ad targeting. Speaking in front of Congress this month, Boucher said he hopes to draft a bill of rights, of sorts, regarding online ads.  Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission is studying existing behavior marketing practices and whether it needs to make its principles legally binding.


Facebook’s Beacon Goes Dim

The long running saga over Facebook’s Beacon, a feature that shared information such as online purchases through a user’s social network , ended when Facebook announced it was discontinuing the service.    According to Computerworld, this brought a shout out from privacy advocates: “Privacy advocates are applauding Facebook's willingness to shut down its controversial Beacon service as a part of a broader settlement in a class-action lawsuit against the company. The move signals an overdue acknowledgement by the popular social-networking site of the need to give users more control over their personal data and how it is shared, they said.”

Netflix Prize 2 Gets Mixed Review Among Some Privacy Researchers

Network World reports, “At least one privacy expert is concerned that Netflix may be on the brink of a major data breach. As a follow-up to its hugely successful Netflix Prize -- a contest to help improve Netflix's software that suggests movies a user might like -- the movie rental company will release anonymous information from 100 million Netflix users to allow researchers to try and predict their movie preferences based on their age, gender, and where they live, according to The New York Times. The problem is, there's a concern that the information Netflix releases could make it very easy to identify specific individuals.”


Med Student Overshare Syndrome Diagnosed by Time Magazine
Last week, The New York Times reported on young lawyers violating legal ethics with judicial overshares.  This week, Time reports on doctor oversharing:
A new survey of medical-school deans finds that unprofessional conduct on blogs and social-networking sites is common among medical students. Although med students fully understand patient-confidentiality laws and are indoctrinated in the high ethical standards to which their white-coated profession is held, many of them still use Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and other sites to depict and discuss lewd behavior and sexual misconduct, make discriminatory statements and discuss patient cases in violation of confidentiality laws, according to the survey, which was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.”

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