Privacy Is The Word Of The Year In 2013

•TSA reacts to concerns about near-naked images produced by airport security body-scanning.

•Google agrees to pay $7 million to settle a WiFi privacy lawsuit.

•Advances in facial-scanning software raise privacy concerns.

•New York Time reveals that the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel may have been tapped by the US NSA.

•European Union threatens to end the US-EU Safe Harbor pact in light of spying allegations.

•Facebook allows user info to be used in advertisements.

•Forbes reports that Snapchat messages don’t ‘disappear’ quickly and can be recovered.

•US Senate reviews privacy risks of domestic drone use.

•Google NL’s privacy policy is found to violate Dutch law.

•Target (and 40 million of their customers) are victimized by one of the largest data privacy and security breaches in corporate history.

Privacy and eCommerce Websites

For companies doing business online, privacy issues are sometimes ignored or neglected. Pre-2013 that strategy worked out for many website owners. But after a full year of constant privacy-related news headlines, consumers and government agencies are showing unprecedented concern with electronic privacy policies. Consumers are now wide-awake to the possible risks of entering personal information (including name, email address, phone number and credit card data) into a website. From hackers and packet sniffers waiting to intercept Internet communications not properly secured with SSL certificates, to unsecured web servers to the website owner itself using and sharing personal data in unscrupulous ways: customers are more weary than ever of sharing personal information online.

Stepped Up Government Enforcement

Government agencies are stepping up enforcement efforts and several states are considering new privacy legislation to regulate how information about their residents can be electronically collected and used by companies around the country. California has lead the charge, enacting the California Online Privacy Protection Act (Code 22575-22579) and the “Shine the Light” law (Civil Code Section 1798.80-1798.84) which dictates certain privacy policy requirements for any website collecting information from California residents. While these laws provide a needed layer of consumer protection, many U.S. websites fail to company with the law, despite being subject to it.

From Sierra Trading Post’s privacy lawsuit, to any number of Google’s large lawsuits related to privacy-violations, state and federal agencies (such as the FTC) are only increasing their enforcement of privacy regulation. Law360 reports that “More than three dozen state attorney generals teamed up to reach a $17 million settlement with Google over alleged privacy violations… in an impressive display that experts say demonstrates the regulators’ growing willingness to go after companies that fail to meet their data collection promises.”