NEWS FROM THE LAB - Thursday, May 6, 2010

U Can't Search This Posted by Sean @ 17:19 GMT

Wednesday's Sydney Morning Herald ran a story called The terrors of Twittering: growing up in an unexploded data minefield.

Here's an excerpt: "Party antics and examples of extreme behaviour posted for fun on Facebook and other social networking sites are set to become ghosts that haunt individuals when they try to get credit, homes or jobs as adults."

That's quite true, digital footprints created today may have later consequences. As the popularity and reach of social networking expands, many are beginning to worry about losing future opportunities due to their digital identities. Privacy protection is of great concern — but what if you didn't have to work so hard to protect your privacy because you controlled it instead?

That's how it works in Finland where employers can't search for personal information. Finnish employers must ask permission to access somebody's details online. All personal information should be provided by the person.

That's such a novel idea, no?

The Act on the Protection of Privacy in Working Life (PDF) has been on the books since 2004.

Harvard's Info/Law blog wrote about it in 2006.


There exists an expectation of privacy in our daily lives — shouldn't there be an expectation of privacy in our virtual lives as well?

Employers and creditors aren't allowed to follow us around, enter our homes and start looking through our photo albums, letters, and drawers. Why is The Man allowed to enter our digital space without asking first?

Must we be required to put so much effort in preventing youthful indiscretions from finding their way onto the web? Do we even think that's possible for most of today's youth?!? It's not. That's fighting a lost battle.

People should be able to enjoy the benefits of sharing and openness without the fear of future reprisals. Personal and professional should be kept separated and individuals should have control over their digital persona. That requires legal consumer protections. Finns understand that.

Time for the rest of the world to play catch-up.