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Hemanshu Nigam Headshot

Will 2013 Be the Year of Privacy on Steroids?

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Last week we saw how 2012 was 'The Year of Privacy'. As I was flying 30,000 feet above sea level after spending time at the International Consumer Electronics Show, it became quite clear that 2013 is going to be 'The Year of Privacy on Steroids.' With so many new sites, gadgets and technology offerings integrating social media into their core functionalities, legislators will be hungry to regulate and legislate. The notion of privacy has become indelibly integrated into all aspects of our lives, impacting what we do on a daily and hourly basis. We communicate, we entertain, we consume, we share, we travel -- we live. And as technology and the online world continue to advance, we are seeing the introduction of new legislation that impacts our private lives.

Here is just a glimpse into what's to come:

The Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) inhibits the disclosure of personally identifiable information related to videotape, DVD and video game sales or rental records. Although originally passed in 1988 prior to the advent of much of the online world as we know, the courts have ruled that the VPPA also applies to online video content and streaming. The VPPA currently requires consumer consent each time a company shares an individual's audiovisual viewing information or some type of subpoena. In December of 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to the VPPA making it easier for companies like Netflix and Amazon to disclose viewing information. Later approved by the Senate without adjustment, H.R. 6671 enables audiovisual content providers to obtain sharing consent electronically for up to two years by receiving permission on just one occasion.

The Location Privacy Protection Act (LPPA) proposes limitations to location data sharing obtained from cell phones, tablets, apps and other location-seeking devices by emphasizing the need for consumer consent to collect and share location information. In mid-December of 2012, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved the LPPA bill drafted by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) that would stop mobile apps from obtaining personal information about adults and children and sending it to third parties without their knowledge or consent.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Amendments Act is designed to enhance privacy protections for digital communications, including email and electronic data, and specifies standards for government access to such information. The ECPA also focuses on increased privacy related to consumer-obtained location information collected and distributed by service providers. At the end of November 2012, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed an amendment to the ECPA that would require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before it can access the content of a citizen's emails.

As we make our way into 2013 and gear up for new technological advances, we cannot help but wonder what other aspects of our lives will privacy-related legislation explore. Just last week, a judge ruled that a Texas school can force students to wear locator chips when they are on campus. While 2012 was 'The Year of Privacy', it is quite clear that 2013 will be 'The Year of Privacy on Steroids.'

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