Panel meets at Salisbury University to discuss internet privacy

Panel meets at Salisbury University...

SALISBURY, Md. - A panel of experts met at Salisbury University Wednesday evening to discuss the social and legal ramifications of the new law passed in Washington allowing Internet Service Providers to sell individuals data history.

The debate concerns the thought that the law is a breach of privacy against the idea that this can lead to economic growth with advertisers able to better target their audiences.

It is a topic that Michael Webber with Salisbury University's Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, or PACE, feels has not gotten the type of reaction he feels it deserves.

"The Communication Arts is obviously concerned with how communication with others is going to be impacted.  And Public Affairs is concerned because there hasn't been a public outcry, our citizens are not as engaged as we would like them to be."

There are some who argue that they have nothing to hide, but there is more more than that to this law, according to Dr. David Burns with the school's Communication department.  He says the new legislation can lead to more predator advertising, going after people such as young couples looking to buy a home.

"They can put ads in, they can target ads, but they can also target ads that are against you.  Target ads where they are predators and they are searching for you."

Burns went on to add companies could hijack your search history, look at what you have done offline and advertise to you online, plug 'zombie cookies' into your computer that are capable of rehashing browsing history you have already deleted.

From a business perspective, the law can lead to more cash flow. 

Dr. Kathie Wright with the Perdue School of Business compares this to the policy in Estonia.  She says the Baltic State's economy was jump-started because of data transparency.

As for the sharing of data, this is just a continuation of something we have already seen.  Whether it be a rewards card at a local grocery store, or using a site such as Pandora, your information is being bundled and shared, and it can have a positive impact for the consumer and companies.

Wright says the targeted advertising can lead to buyers finding new products they may not have known existed, or help businesses target new audiences they may not have reached beforehand.

But she admits, this is not all good for consumers.  She says it is a balancing act between business and privacy.

"At the same time your data may be shared with other entities.  Now that may benefit you, but there are also privacy issues at the same time.  So you just need to be aware."

"What that means is I need to take control of my own privacy settings.  I need to be much more vigilant in the way I handle my online searches, my phone, my applications, what kind of apps I use, how I use them and that kind of thing," said Burns.

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