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Privacy, Usage Rights, and Hidden Cameras

2010 February 26
tags: ,
by Richard N. Landers
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Three privacy and online rights pieces have come up in the last couple of weeks, and I thought I’d share them all at once.

  1. Wired has an interesting piece on how mobile phones are wreaking havoc with the justice systems.  You see, the U.S. justice system is built around the idea that a jury is impartial until they have heard evidence that has been vetted for presentation in court.  So when Juror #5 decides to log into some forums to check what the random jackasses on the Internet have to say about the case he’s sitting on, there’s a little problem.
  2. Imagine if you were sent a captured picture or video of your child engaging in illicit activity by your school district.  Imagine then that the picture was shot in your own home.  How might that have happened, you ask?  Well, it might happen if your school district issued your child a laptop and then used the webcam on the laptop to spy on you and your family.  Surprise, surprise – there’s a class-action lawsuit.
  3. Because of a series of conflicting court rulings, it is unclear if speaking ill of others in online social networks is protected speech.  This is vitally important question in many domains.  Can a child rant against her teacher in MySpace?  Can an employee complain that his boss is an a-hole on Facebook?  Or more accurately, can these things be done without fear of repercussion?  The disturbing answer so far?  We don’t know.  But so far, the courts are leaning towards defining it as free speech.

As new as the Internet is, it will be a while for case law and the Supreme Court to react to all of the new legal implications of that fact.  Can you legally use social networks for hiring?  Can you record your employee’s online shenanigans and use them in promotion, raise and firing decisions later?  Can you offer employment training only online knowing that there are differences in Internet access across protected classes?  Keep an eye here for the latest developments.

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