Every year on January 28th since 2007, we celebrate Data Privacy Day (Data Protection Day to our European friends) going back to the start of the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data. The most important and pressing data privacy issue in the United States today is the fight to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
The law that governs the privacy protections of your electronic communications (ECPA) such as text messaging, cloud computing, etc., was passed in 1986. Needless to say, the general consensus is that the law needs updating. The Digital Due Process (DDP) coalition brings together a broad spectrum of groups from the left, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and the right including Americans for Tax Reform, as well as privacy groups, technology companies including Google, Microsoft, HP, Yahoo, Facebook, etc.
Importantly to this blog, I have to point out that the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) representing a more than critical mass of the genealogical community is part of DDP and helping in the fight to update ECPA. Many of the reasons are spelled out in this letter to US Sen. Orin Hatch.
Yes, the genealogy community is active in the struggle to protect privacy. For another example, check out Judy Russell's excellent post earlier today on this blog.
So here are some good privacy guidelines for genealogists:
- Consent matters, as Judy explains. Which dovetails with the general privacy principle of not sharing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of living people without their consent, and
- Law enforcement should need a warrant for content (except under well-established exceptions)--the Fourth Amendment should apply to the physical world and the digital one.
The more genealogists work to and respect privacy, the fewer problems we'll have with others wanting to restrict records access.