In non-Google news, I’ve just uploaded a draft of my latest paper, Privacy as Product Safety. I’ve been giving presentations on what I call the “Myths of Privacy on Facebook” and when I was invited to present at a symposium on Internet expression at Widener University, I decided to expand the presentation into a real essay. It’s forthcoming in the Widener Law Journal’s June issue, and the new twist is that I draw a parallel between the privacy problems facing users of Facebook and other social software with the problems of product safety facing consumers. Here’s the abstract:
Online social media confound many of our familiar expectaitons about privacy. Contrary to popular myth, users of social software like Facebook do care about privacy, deserve it, and have trouble securing it for themselves. Moreover, traditional database-focused privacy regulations on the Fair Information Practices model, while often worthwhile, fail to engage with the distinctively social aspects of these online services.
Instead, online privacy law should take inspiration from a perhaps surprising quarter: product-safety law. A web site that directs users’ personal information in ways they don’t expect is a defectively designed product, and many concepts from products liability law could usefully be applied to the structurally similar problem of privacy in social software. After setting the scene with a discussion of how people use Facebook and why standard assumptions about privacy and privacy law fail, this essay examines the parallel between physically safe products and privacy-safe social software. It illustrates the value of the product-safety approach by considering another ripped-from-the-headlines example: Google Buzz.
Comments are enthusiastically welcomed.