State AGs affix target to online privacy issues

Online privacy is the focal point during the next year for the newest president of the National Association of State Attorneys General.
Written by John Fontana, Contributor on

Maryland attorney general Douglas Gansler declared digital privacy as his calling card last week after being elected to lead the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

Gansler, who is in his second term in Maryland, said he will spend his yearlong initiative examining the topic "Privacy in the Digital Age." He said technology has transformed everything people do from grocery shopping to treating illness to socializing.

"These changes have raised some unique and significant challenges to privacy," said Gansler, the new president of NAAG, a nonpartisan association of chief legal officers from each state, territory and the District of Columbia.

Over the past few weeks, a rash of new password and private data hacks have again sounded the privacy alarm for Internet users. And over the past year, issues around privacy policies with Facebook, Google and others have spurred debate among academics, policy groups and citizens.

"With this initiative, we will bring the energy and legal weight of this organization to investigate, educate and take necessary steps to ensure that the Internet's major players protect the privacy of online consumers while balancing their legitimate business interests," Gansler said in a statement.

His proclamation seems timely in the face of reports that 532 lobbyists are currently speaking out for their clients on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), according to a recent report by First Street Research Group. In addition, the report says 131 organizations that have disclosed lobbying on CISPA have spent $133 million so far this year on those efforts.

CISPA is designed to allow the U.S. government and select companies to share Internet traffic data. Privacy advocates say the legislation is too vague and could be used to target private citizens rather than hackers.

CISPA follows on the heels of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), both of which came under attack by privacy groups and the general public.

Similar issues are arising in the United Kingdom, including the government's Communications Data Bill.

In the past, the NAAG has aimed its efforts at legal, social and economic issues such as the home foreclosure crisis, tobacco litigation, financial fraud, human trafficking and internet crime.

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