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back to article If Google's only taking a COPY of your personality, why worry?

My tale about how digital privacy needs to be protected by strong property rights caused heated discussion here and over the web - I'll summarise the best points here. The idea that you ultimately own your data is pretty fundamental to creating effective privacy legislation. If you're the sovereign "owner" of your data, then …

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This site proves that holding degrees and working for decades in an industry doesn't make you smart or clever. The fact many professionals still think there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Google and their poison to the core attitude and resentful hatred of their customers is a sad indictment as to why IT professionals are still the bastard child.

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Big Brother

One thing that needs sorting out...

Is your privacy when a company is holding your data.

If someone somewhere agrees that we all have privacy over own own stuff we want kept private (a foregone, you'd think but govt's don't like that stuff) then...

The law should extend to organisations holding data you have provided and indicated you want kept private. e.g. Facebook profiles (hide from search, visible to friends, e.g. authorised people, only). So it should enforce that privacy except that the Met/whomever don't need a warrant to ransack your FB data (in they same way as they would your house), they only need to ask FB's tech people to 'co-operate with an investigation' which they likely will.

So one aspect of the problem is the enforcement of privacy (or lack of by people in power who decide that might inconvenience them). Your so-called 'privacy' rights should be extended to all dimensions of your life if any at all. Which means the ICO needs to tell companies that they do NOT own your data, they merely store it on your behalf. Which then means they need to mandate they store UK peoples' data (for example) in a UK jurisdiction so it can be enforced and that they never 'extradite' the data to storage in jurisdictions with weaker rules.

Can't see that coming into being any time soon, can you?

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: One thing that needs sorting out...

It's sort of what we have now, but it's poorly enforced. That is the principle, however.

The Facebook/Google position is that such data isn't yours at all, extending beyond 'storage' into 'ownership'.

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry, had to downvote... :(

The line "But the idea of attaching ownership to digital things is bitterly fought. Google fights every attempt with the response that it "breaks the internet" " put me off reading any further. Sorry.

If you can clarify this, I'll be happy to read the rest.

Google does not complain "privacy" breaks the internet (AFAIK). But that unrestricted access to data breaks some of the important parts like protected online banking. Or that it is impossible to implement at Copyright holders requests at this time.

So the sentence and link is extremely misleading. Did you read the site you linked to?

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Sorry, had to downvote... :(

Do read the "right to be forgotten" proposals and get back to us. It isn't clear because you haven't read it, or you've read and it haven't clocked what's going on.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sorry, had to downvote... :(

I think the difference between "privacy" and "copyright" is intent.

Privacy is something you never wished to release to the public.

Copyrighted material is released to the public.

Once released can you turn back history and recall it? I don't see the "privacy" arguments working for "copyright". The two are different. Can you explain if you think they are the same?

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Re: Sorry, had to downvote... :(

"Copyrighted material is released to the public."

Er, no it isn't. Copyright applies to everything I create, including this very post. That's why El Reg asks me to give them permission to show this post on their website. Copyright is automatic, which is something many—particularly those who grew up in the US, where copyright is still generally assumed to require some form of registration—don't appear to understand.

Every company report I have written. Every manual for every industrial machine I've been hired to write or translate. Every in-house document I've ever had to create. It's ALL copyrighted. Every single bit of it. Even government White Papers are copyrighted to "The Crown" in the UK.

Many of these documents are most emphatically not intended for public consumption. Privately owned companies aren't even required to file anything other than their annual accounts at Companies House; everything else they produce internally is (a) copyrighted, and (b) private.

Copyright is not limited to novels, movies and music. It never was.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Sean

I'm agreeing with you that you have a right. But disagreeing that once given to the public, you have a possibility of controlling it.

If I let a balloon go in a field, I cannot demand control of it as it floats away. If I want control I need to keep hold of it.

Your business documents are not public, you keep them private. Your post here has been granted permission to be distributed on the internet. It's no longer private. You can try to control the copyright of the post. But I don't think you would be successful.

Hence, trying to "undo" your post could lead to "breaking the internet". Not because of privacy or copyright, but because of asking for time to be unwound. ;) (Like the balloon floating off into the sunset)

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Terminator

But...

...trading elements of our privacy in return for things we consider worthwhile long predates the Internet. Schools, libraries, government, employers gave us forms to fill, and we dutifully complied.

Personally, I respect others property, and don't pirate anything...instead I do a value sum, and either pay the price asked, or do without them

Similarly, if the services offered by Google, Facebook et al, in return for chunks of privacy aren't worth it, I'll live without them.

I do resent however attempts by "big media" to turn the Internet into no more than a storefront, and a parochial one at that. This is akin to a wild-West land-grab, and we digital squatters are re being dispossessed

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Anonymous Coward

Another missing part..

.. is self determination.

An absolute classic example of how your right to privacy is backdoored lies in the way Facebook and others acquire your data. Data Protection laws bar them from using information you provide without telling you what they will be using it for, but there is a truck-sized hole which both Facebook and Google use with gay abandon: there is no such barrier if they acquire your details via someone else.

Hence the vast about of Facebook games that don't just access your details (some go as far as demanding that right in perpetuity, i.e. even when you have stopped playing the game), but also absorb the profiles of all your friends. This is what makes privacy settings in Facebook meaningless: users have ZERO control over that backdoor.

This is where things are going wrong: laws intended to give people control over their information are systematically undermined, because they inconveniently get in the way of making vast (vote buying) profits.

Oh, and let's not forget that fantastic argument that is rolled out the moment companies are pulled up about their non-compliance: too big to comply. This should remain an unacceptable argument, but Google has tried it with Streetview by not guaranteeing a 100% masking of people and cleaning up AFTER the event rather than following the law. As long as "oops, sorry" is acceptable of the fines for such offences are but spare change for the organisations in question, nothing will change and Data Protection laws remain toothless.

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Indeed. There are saner ways of dealing with this.

Quite simply, avoid !GooMyFaceYouMSTwit.etc ... and advise everyone in your circle to do the same. It seems to work quite nicely for me & mine ... we manage to easily communicate using modern tools without running our palaver through multi-billion dollar mega-national marketing corporations.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't really see the point of jamming together privacy and copyrights...

It's a straw man. To avoid the real problems and discussions. Privacy is not the same as copyright.

The BBC films the public. The BBC owns the films copyright, but the public own their privacy.

The public makes a film, they own the copyright and the privacy.

The BBC makes a film with their own actors. They distribute it. This film has no privacy, but the BBC still have the copyright.

Independent and separate. Not the same. The whole article is a fail sadly, if that is the point it's making.

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FAIL

Re: Don't really see the point of jamming together privacy and copyrights...

"It's a straw man. To avoid the real problems and discussions. Privacy is not the same as copyright."

Andrew never said it was. He said copyright relies on the same fundamental principles as privacy. Furthermore, he claims that reliance is so deep that you cannot have the one without the other. To deny a right to privacy—to own the information about oneself—is therefore to deny the validity of copyright. To deny the right for individuals to own the intangible things we define today as "intellectual property" is to deny their rights to privacy as both rely on the same core assumptions about what one can and cannot "own".

Earth's stable, breathable atmosphere is not the same thing as gravity, but you cannot have that atmosphere without that gravity. That's the comparison Andrew was making. It was not a simile, or even a metaphor.

Now, try this thought experiment...

Suppose Google, Facebook, and other entities, including governments are allowed to take my private information from me without my permission: Surely they won't mind if I demand the exact same information from them, their employees, their owners, and so on, right? If they are allowed to look into my own home, browse my hard disks and browser history, why should I be banned from doing likewise? Why shouldn't I be allowed to roam the hard disks of our MPs and other government representatives? Surely they have nothing to hide either, right?

Why shouldn't I be allowed to demand free access to my neighbour's home? He might be a pedophile! How will I possibly know if my kids are safe from him (or her) unless I'm granted the right to invade their privacy? Or is that a right only governments are to be granted? Why should I trust an MP or a policeman any further than I'd trust any other complete stranger?

And that's just privacy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't really see the point of jamming together privacy and copyrights...

Sorry Sean. Was making a point that "wanting to not distribute" is more like "privacy" and "wanting to distribute" is a requirement of copyrighted material sold via distribution channels.

They are opposite ends of the coin to me. Not the same side...

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FAIL

Oh hey, my original post was "deleted by a moderator"

Anyway, all websites collecting your private information, such as Google, Facebook and the like have in their T&Cs that they can do whatever they want with the information, that your are granting them the right to do whatever they want with the pictures you upload, etc.

By using them, you are foregoing your privacy AND the copyright to all your data... So insisting that private information is protected by copyright serves no purpose.

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Re: Don't really see the point of jamming together privacy and copyrights...

"Why shouldn't I be allowed to roam the hard disks of our MPs and other government representatives? Surely they have nothing to hide either, right?"

That's an interesting point, Sean. There's been a quiet movement in the US, in recent years, where whenever a politician proposes a law that welfare recipients should be subject to mandatory drug testing, another proposes an amendment, to the effect that such testing should apply to all who receive public funds, including politicians and civil servants. Typically, the proposal is dropped once the amendment passes.

On the "straw man" point: if anything, one can argue that discussing only privacy and copyrights doesn't go far enough. For example, Prof. Ross Anderson has long argued that credit reference agencies which disseminate inaccurate negative information about individuals are committing an offence of libel - which adds defamation (and all that comes with considering it) to the mix. Information is complicated.

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Coat

Internet fame! Huzzah! Time to announce a new web 3.0 collaboration site for famous commenters and get bought out by Brin or someone for a brajillion dollars!

What? My fame is gone already? Dang...

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Cheap Shot

> perhaps it's hosted on a laptop

Unnecessary Andrew. But personally I think you should have copied his entire article and published it whole on the Register, and see how he reacted :)

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Stop

And..... I wonder how many people complaining about Google hold a loyalty card for a store?

Like a Clubcard for Tesco?

You do realise when you use your Clubcard - not only does Tesco log everything you buy, but also WHERE you bought it.

And in return for freely giving them this information - from which they can build up a picture of who you are, how healthy you are, where you live, who you live with, how easy it is to hit you with "special offers" - they offer you something in return - Clubcard vouchers.

This is how the world works, we trade something for something else.

With Google - they collect information about who you are - and in return they offer you useful services, but - if you don't want the useful services - you simply don't give them any information about who you are.

Then - we come to the Government - who are proposing to collect information about who we are - without giving us anything in return - by most definitions - taking something from someone without their permission is also known as theft.

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Anonymous Coward

@Andrew Jones 2

While for the most part I concur with your analogy, your last paragraph is a little dubious to me.

The government collects information about individuals for the purposes of supplying services, such as infrastructure, health & welfare etc. So in this instance I think you are incorrect, and we do get something in exchange for the information, which of course, they ostensibly use to enable them to plan those services, to the best of whichever current government's ability (fingers crossed) including financing them via extracting taxes the public.

That's the theory in general, anyway.

Having said that, there are always loop holes into which busybodies/jobsworths will stick their beaks, thus you will always get somebody who will abuse the system, just as you will always get people who will always try to break or avoid a system which is supposedly for the benefit of all of us.

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For once, an argument about theft of intangibles that I can agree with.

In UK law, theft is when someone "dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it". Now, whilst I spend ages arguing with myself about the "dishonest" aspect when it comes to government, it is clear that privacy is a one-shot thing - if someone appropriates my privacy to themselves, then I have been permanently deprived of it. It is, therefore, perfectly legitimate to talk of theft of privacy, an utterly intangible concept.

I still don't see breach of copyright as theft, though, because I am not sure that Andrew's equating of privacy and copyright is sustainable. I think the system of copyright we have been lumbered with by the French is a mistake, and that there is no sense in the concept of everything that I write, say, compose, etc being automatically copyrighted. However, if I don't put it out for public consumption, it is certainly private.

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Re: For once, an argument about theft of intangibles that I can agree with.

Having thought about it, my basic premise is that privacy is fundamental to being human. I doubt that there has ever been a human society in which there has been no respect at all for some level of private action/thought. The need for privacy is just about hardwired in us, and so it is fundamental. This puts it in a different category from protection of ideas/skills and their expression (so called "intellectual property").

Now, I am not necessarily saying that there should not be some means by which the expression of an idea should not have some sort of protection, but the protection should be very light, and it should be extremely limited. Once an idea is expressed, it cannot help but inform and contribute to new ideas, some of which my be expressed. That is to the benefit of society that this happens. There is actually no fundamental reason that the person who expressed the idea gets anything other than a pat on the back (if it is anything worthwhile): anything beyond that is a bonus that society can give or withhold as it chooses. It seems that society might while have got seriously fed up with (admittedly relatively few) idea-expressors making more money than most people can ever dream of (musicians, actors and authors really shouldn't become multi-millionaires), and the ridiculous extensions to copyright terms (just because I work now, my kids should be able to live on continuing wages from my employer decades hence - I don't think so).

Privacy and copyright are therefore philosophically and practically completely separate. The first needs greater protection in the current situation, and the latter need much less.

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Black Helicopters

@Andrew Jones 2

Andrew, while I agree with most of your comment I have to disagree with your last paragraph - to an extent.

Whatever the current government of the day, it obtains information from you in order to make decisions on how best to structure and fund the services that they supply to you, such as infrastructure, health, defence, welfare etc. So yes, they do provide you a service.

The problem mainly lies that there are some people (civil service/government/whoever) who think that the information you supply could be used for other things, but this is where it becomes the thin end of the wedge.

How much scope creep do we get as it becomes ever easier to track individuals either by ANPR/CCTV/mobile phone data without permission from anyone. But of course, it's all for your own good and to prevent crime/paedophilia/whatever else comes to mind to try and scare us with. But in truth, none of the electronic gadgetry has ever done much for preventing crime, but has certainly aided solving crime, which I suppose makes it justifiable, but again up to a point.

The U.K. is virtually in the position now where any person getting into power who decides they want to stay there, would find suppressing the masses quite easy. Through scare tactics there are now virtually no guns to support an uprising should the need arise (we'll all be murdered in our beds!), ability to monitor/track vehicles/people etc. All you need is the heads of the police and armed forces on your side and you're away.

Nah, pure paranoid speculation. It'll never happen - just like people thought it would never happen in Germany, Russia and numerous other countries. Until it was too late.

Whoops, there I go again, I've been forced to resume taking the pills.

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"It breaks the internet"

No it doesn't. The internet is merely a very large computer network. What Google and their ilk mean is that protecting privacy breaks their business model. They need to learn that there is a big difference between "the internet" and "the internet the way Google/Facebook/et al want it to be".

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Anonymous Coward

Not as I understand it.

The "breaks the internet" is usually only in response to "backdoors" being brought in by law.

These would by definition "break the internet". As if an ISP (or Google) is required to snoop on customers by law, the same tool can be used by criminals to snoop on your online banking.

Google will complain about laws that make them have to work harder, or earn less. But the phrase "breaks the internet" refers to the security and computer backbone that actually makes it work. Not the money involved.

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The problem we have is that insanity has come to rein free, and for all of the vitriol against "freetards" it didn't begin with them. We have reached a point in our society where in the telling of a single story can keep not only oneself, but one's children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren fat and happy for all time, and all indications are that if thing don't change soon, that this protection will extend out to untold generations. We have reached a point or soon will where the protection of an idea my outlast the civilization which spawned it.

We live in a society wherein the basic building blocks of life, our very DNA is being actively patented, this isn't fantasy, it's happening. It's not really all that much of a stretch to envision a future where the act of procreation violates intellectual property laws.

Yes, the idea that information wants to be free is ludicrous, information doesn't want anything. Yes, creative works deserve protection as do all manner of other ephemeral ideas. That said, how can we criticize people for taking a ludicrous response to a ludicrous system? How do we judge someone for believing their should be no property while condoning a man who believes that an idea which was based largely on the previous efforts of others should remain the exclusive holding of himself and his heirs through the course of generations yet unborn?

For better or worse there is no known or imagined enforcement mechanism for copyright or privacy which is both functional and allows for the existence of a free society. We simply cannot determine what information people are transmitting or storing without looking at that information which is, in many ways a worse violation of privacy than any of the evil done by Google.

Enforcement of intellectual property and privacy can only be done via the medium of the social contract. Society must believe that the free distribution of such information is a moral or societal wrong, and this simply can never be the case until we begin to until we begin to claw back some of the ridiculous gains achieved by the copyright lobby.

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Stop

"Yes, the idea that information wants to be free is ludicrous, information doesn't want anything."

Of course it doesn't want anything. The expression is a metaphor.

The natural nature of information is that it is effortlessly diseeminatable.

The issue at hand here is that the basic premises about how our economy works is entirely at odds with the reality of life in the modern technological world itself. In order to sustain this "old world" philosophy we have to engineer more and more complex laws and ideas to prop up "intellectual rights". It cannot continue indefinitely.

We criticise the media industries for not "keeping pace" with the real world. The truth is that the problem is much more fundamental. Our world is not ready for free movement of information and ideas.

Remember the North American Indians on first encountering settlers for the first time, roping off and claiming ownership of large areas of land to the exclusion of others? They weren't entirely free from hypocrisy, but to them, the concept of "owning" land was bizarre and alien. Now we see a reverse of this process where the status quo is being broken by the freedoms afforded by the Internet and the incumbents just don't know how to deal with this brave new world.

Trying to enforce a monopoly on an idea of "information" is futile and is becoming more and more so as time goes on. It will all end in a free-for-all utopia or it will all end in tears. Either way, it will end.....

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Happy

Found that for you....

Andrew: http://www.michigandaily.com/content/robert-soave-i-do-not-own-these-words is a live link to the article to which you refer. :)

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Anonymous Coward

There's a simple fix to this.

I don't really see the point of going to talks about copyrights, property ownership etc.... we can adapt exiting laws that governs our physical life to the virtual one.

Things like behaviour tracking / history tracking from advertisers could probably fall under laws for Stalking.

Applications that grabs contact data and other personal data residing on your devices *without consent* is basically theft, and again, if they also grab location data, that's laws under Stalking.

Even if applications collect behaviour / history data from you that is 'not personally identifiable'. If it is 'to a degree' identifiable as you, it should be enforceable as stalking. Otherwise, you shouldn't care too much because it's much like street surveyers observing shopper's reactions etc... that already happens in the physical world to which you probably didn't even thought about until now.

I'd apply programming terminologies to law. KISS. Every law in existence, unless which can be proven to show that it cannot be applied to the digital world, should simply be applied to the digital world. Afterall, we as humans don't really do anything different from what we do physically.

Though even IF these laws can be proved to be applied to the internet as well, it wouldn't make a difference because YOU are ultimately responsible for clicking that "I Agree" button.

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Anonymous Coward

Thoughts on privacy

Privacy in the real world is not about secrecy - it's about the right not to be observed, or at least for observations not to be collated. Someone will likely see you when you walk down the street, and that's fine as long as they don't immediately call up big brother and tell them.

Online is the same. My computer connects to my router which connects to my ISP which hops across the internet and pulls down what I want. I can't hide that, just as I can't stop people seeing me when I walk out of my front door. I could encrypt my data, but I guess that's like crawling out of the catflap with a mask on.

So the only difference is that computers you use online keep logs, and those logs can be inspected. The street I walk on doesn't keep tabs on when I was there (though I suppose CCTV does).

Apologies if this was all very obvious. I didn't have a conclusion in mind when I started typing. I suppose this means I support the right to be forgotten, as that makes online more like the real world.

I suppose one difference with the modern web is how much more involved certain companies can get. Google can see much of my web hits whether I go to their services or not these days, but in the real world Walmart only knows what I do in their stores. But there are ways around that, I guess.

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Anonymous Coward

So basically this article can be summarised as...

...all you freetards like your privacy right? Well you have to like copyright if you want privacy! Hah!

It's a stupid argument for reasons already posted.

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Stop

Privacy?

The problem, and it is such a far cry from copyright that I'm surprised you even bothered to shoehorn that into the article, is that privacy is defined more by what is actually done with collected data.

You see, as EU citizens we have certain rights. We can find out who is recording data on us, obtain copies of said data, and offer corrections in case of error (which may involve legal issues in cases like incorrect credit ratings). On the internet, it is a wildly different story with dozens of companies looking to profile you (yes, even from El Reg), there is no real way to access, modify, or delete this. I'm sure Google has a reasonable profile of me by now, but given my mother looks up crochet and stuff in Google off the same IP address, is it smart enough to work out there are two people or is my profile screwed up? If somebody borrows my computer to look for something pervy, will my profile be tweaked to note this? Can I untweak it?

This, I believe, is why people worry about their privacy. Because 33% of it will be scarily accurate, while 66% will be bollocks. And only you, the commodity, will know which is which. Meanwhile, other organisations will base opinions on you on the results of this so-called analysis. Your involvement is zero. Your options to see the collected data, to modify it, etc, also zero.

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This is different to whether or not you "own" your profile or can complain if Google "copies" it. This isn't a matter of copying, it is a matter of corrupting.

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Stop

good article but a bit too much generalization

This article got me thinking a lot, not because it is right but cause I know it is wrong :P.

Well i would like to tackle the points raised in this article.

This article talks about 2 things

1. ownership

2. rights or control.

In the article you are confusing the concept of ownership and you are immediately jumping the gun that ownership brings rights, i.e. control. Well the first thing that you have to understand, the copylefts are fighting is not ownership part, but the control part. you might ask can we own something but not have any rights over it? Well lets look at the physics or science research. When someone publishes a paper in a journal. The owner of that idea or discovery is duely credited but he/she has absolutely has no control over how the science community uses their idea. That is ownership with out rights.

If we are to assume that with ownership you get certain rights, eg the right to totally control how your information is used, then that comes under enforcement or control.

Why i argue that copyright and privacy are 2 different things is because copyright only works with enforcement, and when enforcement comes in to play, someones privacy has to be compromised. There can never be enforcement without a compromise in privacy.

Now if we are to have strong privacy laws then that means we need transparency from governments or organisations like google and facebook. This effectively means govt, google, facebook have no claim to privacy.

If copyright were to be 100% enforced then the general public has to sacrifice their privacy for the betterment of content creators.

When we say we already do this for local law enforcement, why not for copyright?

Well this is where i draw the line. Local law enforcement do invade our privacy to a certain degree generally for public safety.

Copyright enforcement is to let corporation,law enforcement invade our lives for the sake of lining someones pockets.

To sum it up, privacy is the protection of the public or general population's information because of security concerns(concerns of harm).

Copyright enforcement is the invasion of general population's privacy for profits.

remember enforcement is not possible without a breach of privacy, only we need to decide do we do it for the purpose of public safety or profits.

Which side would you take?

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Holmes

Freedom is really about meaningful choice

Freedom is really about meaningful choice

Possession is 9 points of the law. We should possess our personal data, and if anyone wants to see it, they should explain why, what they will use it for, and how long, and we should be able to decide whether or not to let them use our data.

Why does it matter? It's not just that we can be blackmailed by our mistakes or pressured on our weaknesses. It's that our favorite tastes can be used to manipulate our choices and that even our strengths can be turned against us.

The point about the privacy of criminals is easy to address. Any personal information that we share with another person is intrinsically shared. We can both choose to keep it private, and then it should remain private, but if either one of us feels that there was a crime, then the victim will be glad to give permission for the police to look at that information.

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Anonymous Coward

Privacy/Confidentiality

Daniels and Solove put a paper online contrasting the US privacy laws with UK confidentiality laws which made some useful and interesting distinctions. I would like that to go further online so that I can treat Facebook, Google et al. as a confidential secretary and so that they can't just force their terms on me. Most of what people are talking about when they say privacy is actually confidentiality. The distinction is especially useful in the US because they have moved in the direction of treating everything that you pass to another person as "public" whereas the UK legal framework would treat that as "in confidence"

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