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Privacy Cases

News stories abound with cases of privacy litigation and compromises. The laws are still being defined, and it's the Wild West when it comes to prosecution. One major topic being debated by courts throughout the U.S. is whether public court records detailing child abuse, financial records, or medical information should be posted on the Internet. Rules governing electronic publication of documents in civil and criminal cases are being defined and debated. A panel of state court administrators will propose national guidelines that try to balance the public's right to know against an individual's right to privacy. Each state currently decides whether to post court documents online and whether to withhold some information that is otherwise available to the public at courthouses. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell said online posting of information as seemingly non-controversial as traffic citations could enable the spouse of a domestic violence victim to discover the person's new address.

The government is also finding it difficult to define the line of where they have power to enforce laws and self-regulation. In one case, the FTC found it “likely” that Amazon and its subsidiary, Alexa, illegally deceived customers about their data collection practices. However, the FTC did not take any punitive action. Alexa produces a Web browser plug-in that helps users find Web sites that match their interests. The FTC started investigating the company in response to complaints that Alexa sometimes captured personal information such as street and e-mail addresses. Its privacy policy said all data collected “remains anonymous,” but Alexa had changed its privacy policy to describe in more detail what types of data it collects. The FTC cited a number of reasons for not going after Amazon. Because the case was brought forth, Alexa has changed its practice and modified the policy.


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