September 20, 2010

The law and emerging media

Can you buy back  your privacy?

Jessica ValenzuelaWith evolution comes change. With change come new ideas and new rules. At the second annual Social Media Law Conference in Seattle this month, a handful of thought leaders gathered to share and learn about the impact of social media and emerging technologies on the law.

John Palfrey, Jr., co-author of Born Digital and professor at Harvard Law School, opened the conversation by citing six major legal problems dominating the legal conversation around social media and technology:

  • security and safety
  • privacy
  • intellectual property
  • credibility of information
  • information overload
  • computing in the cloud

Law practitioners need to learn and understand the complex legal issues in a socially mediated world. What is the rule of law when it comes to emerging media?

A question of identity

When your offline and online identities collide, is there such a thing as a separation? When the wall between your offline and online personality is fast becoming non-existent, accountability in the social space and the physical space is a must. As your digital dossier exponentially grows over time, individuals should be more concerned about how information is gathered and stored. Should we expect that privacy concerns can be handled through less regulation? Dave Horn, Assistant Regional Director at the Federal Trade Commission in Seattle, says, “No, we will definitely see more regulation.”

How to safeguard your child’s privacy

Dave Horn from the FTC and Alan L. Friel of Wildman, Harold, Allen & Dixon LLP addressed the issues around regulatory initiatives surrounding social media. Horn said “the FTC is soul searching on the topic of privacy.”

Mobile media, gaming and virtual worlds are fast becoming the playground of plugged-in young people. In virtual worlds, much like the real world, promotions are fed to youngsters and are highly interactive. A handful of sites frequented by millennials include Webkinz, Club Penguin, Hasbro and more.

Mobile widgets and mobile interactivity are fast becoming a mainstay in our children’s media consumption. Is this healthy? How can parents filter information for their children and protect their information? Are avatars and virtual names going to protect your children’s privacy? The FTC is taking steps in the right direction. They released a study on Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping The Risks . You can also help educate your children about advertising and privacy.

In a world where anonymity is fast becoming archaic, the protection of privacy should start in the home. Keep your information closely held. Find out how your data is being used and the statutory limitations of its usage before sharing it.

Privacy vs. security

Meanwhile, The Right To Be Forgotten is a debate on privacy and security. Europe and the United States have very different rules on the matter. The majority here believe that privacy is breached when the government collects and searches your data for security reasons, while a good percentage stands firm that if it is a question of security and safety, our right to privacy can be set aside if you have nothing to hide.

A number of security scenarios and cases are also springing up in the United States. Would you like your child to have an RFID chip to ensure his or her safety at all times? What behavioral changes will it have on our minors as they grow up in a world where they are being constantly watched?

Privacy vs personalization

When is it OK for an organization to collect your information to ensure a highly personalized experience with a brand, product or service? While the pitch sounds focused on its consumers, the end result benefits an organization’s profitability, research and development. Should consumers demand more beyond the personalized service/product they are paying for in exchange for consistent access to their behavioral and demographic data?

We are in a cusp of a change brought about by technology and communications. Lawmakers, regulators, media and thought leaders are discussing how we can evolve the law to support the trajectory of  evolving media and technology. How do you feel about the changing landscape and how it affects your personal space?

Thank you to Law Seminars International for putting together such a great event!

This article also appears on Mavin Digital.Jessica Valenzuela is a tech-media strategist who works with global brands and startups throughout their product lifecycle in the areas of design, development and communications (marketing, PR and social media). See her business profile, contact Jessica or leave a comment.

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2 thoughts on “The law and emerging media

  1. Privacy is still a big question these days, especially when social networking giants and the big guys over the Web can simply play big brother anytime with your info. They can just sell it to marketers who now knows what exactly your preferences are. A cause for concern? Perhaps. I've even read a news recently where Google fired their techie staff because of stalking minors. The problem is that kids these days find it way too 'uncool' to have mom and dad added to their social networking friends and for this, AOL has introduced SafeSocial where parents can spy on their kid's onine activities even without being their friends there. We'll see if laws can catch up with the fast apced growth of the Web.

  2. Great points of concern. The FTC is taking steps, hopefully in the right direction toward the concern of privacy. Change is imminent, the when and how are the biggest questions. As evolving media grows, the more information is shared and privacy management becomes a bigger challenge.