Privacy law was largely created in the pre-Internet age, and new rules are needed to keep up with the ways people communicate today. Much of what occurs online, like blog posting, is intended to be an open declaration to the world, and law enforcement is within its rights to read and act on what is written. Other kinds of communication, particularly in a closed network, may come with an expectation of privacy. If government agents are joining social networks under false pretenses to spy without a court order, for example, that might be crossing a line.
A national conversation about social networking and other forms of online privacy is long overdue. The first step toward having it is for the public to know more about what is currently being done. Making the federal government answer these reasonable Freedom of Information Act requests would be a good start.
This editorial from today’s Boston Globe is emblematic of the problem with the entire copyright debate — nobody can even figure out how to talk sensibly about the topic anymore: Awkward download laws make music-sharing case a travesty
IF THE LAWS about music file-sharing bore any relationship to common sense, Boston University graduate student Joel Tenenbaum’s civil trial might not have turned into a circus. But the inadequacies of the law brought out the worst both in Tenenbaum and in the record companies that sued him.
[…] Judge Gertner plainly sees the absurdity. In her opinion, the judge says she “urges – no implores – Congress to amend the statute to reflect the realities of file sharing.’’ It would be nice if file-sharers such as Tenenbaum acknowledged that illegal downloading makes it harder for musicians to earn a living, but in any case the solution to the problem is more likely to emerge from technological change than from legal action. In the meantime, though, the law should reflect the difference between large-scale counterfeiters who profit off of copyright infringement and the student who casually shares files.
So, what *is* the Globe’s message? “Can’t we all just get along?” is a fine ethical guideline, but ethics is not what this fight centers upon.