Privacy Article Round-Up

For today’s post, I rounded up some of the most interesting articles on Internet privacy from different online sources from the week. Here are the highlights of the reads!


Article 1: Eric Pfanner, “French Tax Proposal Zeroes in on Web Giants’ Data Harvest,” The New York Times, Feb. 24, 2013, available at

 This article discussed France’s new proposal to tax the collection of personal data on the Internet.

  • Nicolas Colin, an author of the tax, stated the immediate goal would be to promote sound practices for data collection and protection. However, it appears the bill is directed as a revenue stream rather than as an effort to protect privacy and personal data.
  • This tax highlights many countries’ frustration of their inability to raise significant tax revenue from the billions of dollars in sales and profits that Internet companies generate in Europe each year.
  • France is actively seeking ways to tax Internet companies the sale took place (in France and with French customers) rather than in the location where the transaction was recorded (a country with tax breaks).


Article 2: Eyder Peralta, In Discussion About Internet Privacy, It Comes Down to Expectation Versus Reality, National Public Radio, Feb. 25, 2013, available at

This article highlights the disparities between what Americans expect in regards to their Internet privacy rights and the realities of those rights.

  • Expectation: A court order is required for police to access your email communications.
  • Reality: Authorities are able to read electronic communication with only a subpoena (and not with a search warrant or a court order).


Article 3: Jathan Sadowski, Why Does Privacy Matter? One Scholar’s Answer, The Atlantic, Feb. 26, 2013, available at

In this article, Sadowski argues the legal system is lagging behind the pace of innovation in ensuring privacy.

  • The most recent legislation addressing online privacy was the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was passed in 1986.

This article argues that “privacy is not just something we enjoy. It is something that is necessary for us too: develop who we are; form an identity that is not dictated by the social conditions that directly or indirectly influence our thinking, decisions, and behaviors; and decide what type of society we want to live in.”


Article 4: Meghan Kelly, “Hackers could use “The Internet of Things” to turn everyday devices into paths of attack,” The Washington Post, Feb. 27, 2013, available at

This article discusses how innovation within our everyday products may leave us vulnerable to online espionage attacks.

  • “The Internet of Things” is the concept behind connecting every day physical devices to the internet, such as building smart applications into our cars, thermostats, and refrigerators.

This article poses the question: What happens when attackers get into a system through our everyday products?

  • At a larger scale consider: What if all of the city’s thermostats were turned on too high in an effort to ‘blow’ out the city’s power grid?


Article 5: Chris Soghoian, New Document Sheds Light on Government’s Ability to Search iPhones, American Civil Liberties Union, Feb. 26, 2013, available at

The last article was an extremely interesting discussion of the treatment of cell phone data by law enforcement and the courts.

During a drug related trial, a document was submitted to court that provided a rare inventory of the types of data that federal agents were able to obtain from a seized iPhone.

  • After receiving a search warrant for the defendant’s home, the defendant’s iPhone was seized.
  • The officers obtained a second search warrant for a cell phone search (however, courts are currently divided about whether a warrant is necessary in these circumstances and no statute requires such a warrant).
  • In a single ‘data extraction’ during the investigation, officers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement collected a HUGE amount of personal data from that phone, including call activity, phone book directory information, stored voice messages and text messages, photos and videos, applications used, eight different passwords, and 659 geo-location points with which the cell phone had previously connected.

The article argued that because of the invasiveness of cell phone data, law enforcement agents should be required to obtain a warrant before conducting them.

  • Prior to the availability of cell phone and wireless activities, police were unable to gather this amount of personal data from one source in such a quick period of time.



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