It’s Not a Privacy ‘Breach’ When Information About You Is Out There Already

Rob Pegoraro of The Washington Post, reports in an article dated November 14, 2010, that recent developments regarding Facebook's "misuse of some user's data by applications it installed on their pages," and Google's "collecting data from people's wireless networks," are in the "doghouse" for the wrong reasons.

According to the Post, "[b]oth of these episodes show that we need to upgrade how we thing about privacy online-starting with the vocabulary we use."  Facebook and Google's missteps have been called "breaches," which according to the article, they most certainly were not.  "The information at stake in each case was already public by any meaningful definition.  It would have remained public no matter how good or evil the two companies had been."

In Facebook's case, "the data consisted of the basic parameters of people's accounts . . . name, picture, gender and networks, all of which Facebook already makes public to all of the 500-million-plus users on the site" (emphasis added).  

In Google's case, "the problem began with people leaving their wireless networks unencrypted. People have been neglecting to take this simple step since the arrival of consumer-grade WiFi routers" for a variety of reasons.  "The Street View engineers – who wanted to build a database of WiFi hot spots for Google's location-based mobile services . . . forgot to scrub data collected by the Mountain View, California firm's Street View Cars of anything beyond wireless networks' names and hardware addresses."


"A real breach exposes private information you tried to keep confidential."  It doesn't "involve a remix or collection of data that's already out there for anybody to see – even if suing the words 'hack' or 'breach' in a headline makes the story that much juicier."



The full article can be found above, or here.

Here is the link to Facebook's fiasco.

Here is the link to Google's fiasco.  

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography