Online Privacy: 7 Laws that impact your virtual life

How much information do “they” have about you based on your email and other internet use? You might be surprised to find out. You also might be surprised to know that the internet is largely unregulated by the federal government and policies are mostly underdeveloped.

Because the U.S Supreme Court leans more in favor of the right to free speech, they have taken a hands-off approach to regulation when it comes to the internet and online privacy. There are laws that regulate the use of such things as child pornography and online gambling, but it is important to realize that most laws are issued by individual states rather than being comprehensive and federally issued.

The following is a list of 7 laws that impact our online privacy.

  1. The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA): From 1986, this complicated law containing many exceptions makes it unlawful under certain circumstances for someone to read or disclose the contents of an electronic communication (18 USC 2511). It notes the difference between an email in transit, and one that is stored on a computer, which means that a private email may be read, if there is the suspicion that the sender is trying to damage the system or another user, but the random monitoring of email is not acceptable.
  2. The USA PATRIOT Act: This act, passed by Congress after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and amended in 2006, gives the government easier access to records about online activity. It also expanded the types of records that can be obtained without a court order.
  3. Electronic Funds Transfer Act: Requires the financial institution to communicate with the account holder all information as it applies to the account- fines, charges, usage, etc. They must provide documentation of all account transactions. They must set forth a plan to promptly address any error on all accounts. It also addresses civil and criminal liability as well as administrative enforcement and congressional reports.
  4. State laws regarding the treatment of personal information are held by Minnesota and Nevada who both require Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to get permission before sharing certain information concerning their customers. They also prohibit disclosure of personally identifying information, and Minnesota does not allow disclosing information about visited websites.
  5. California and Utah require all nonfinancial businesses to disclose to the customer the types of personal information they will share or sell to a third party, either for compensation or direct marketing purposes.
  6. Connecticut and Delaware have laws that require employers to give notice to employees before they monitor e-mail communications or Internet access.
  7. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998: This law protects children by requiring web operators who gather information from children to get consent from a parent or guardian and permit the parent to disallow the collection of such information. They are also required to disclose the purpose of gathered information.

While the laws governing personal privacy online are, in many cases, still undeveloped, as internet users, we must be careful to protect our own privacy. Many tools are available for that purpose. From computer virus protection and firewalls to choosing strict controls and strong passwords, you can enjoy all the benefits the internet has to offer without being victimized by the unsavory aspects.

Source:  My ISP Finder

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