I was honored to be invited to speak at the IBM IT Services Legal Summit today in New York City on the topic of ethics and privacy. As a launching pad for my discussion of privacy ethics, I used the episode from earlier in the year involving Justice Scalia and Fordham University Professor Joel Reidenberg whose privacy law class created a "digital dossier" on the Justice and his famiiy, using publicly available online information.
It seems unlikely that there are workable ethical guidelines to restrict access to and use of publicly available information on the Internet. If information is on the Internet, searchable through Google, it is unlikely society can set new norms to restrict access.
[P]ending a societal change in the ethics of what we do with information we can access online, what can be done?
Well, one place to start is at the input side of things. Before people reveal information about themselves or allow data to be collected about them, since it appears to be fair game once it is collected, what is the ethical duty to put people on notice on the collection side?
I said that the duty, in which privacy lawyers play an important role, is to provide clear, easy-to-access notice to consumers before data is collected, referencing the recent Sears case at the FTC and the ongoing debate abut behavioral advertising.
A copy of my prepared remarks is available here.