~ keeping personal identifiers off the internet: “When Data Democratization Verges on Privacy Invasion”

Anita Ramasastry writes on the clash of the First Amendment and the need for restricting personal identifiers on the Internet. Ramasastry, an Associate Professor of Law, reflects on the legalities and the dangers of too much freely distributed information, particularly social security numbers, in online sources. She rightly singles out zabasearch, a somewhat scrambled, voyeristic compilation of names, addresses and telephone numbers in one, searchable source.

In short, Ramasastry suggests a few legal avenues.

First, a law could deem certain categories of information off limits. Medical data is already protected, to some extent. Social security numbers should be better protected (for example, from Internet publication).

Second, a law could prevent certain federal, state, and local government data from being accessible online. (Bankruptcy and divorce records come to mind; they could be redacted).

Perhaps private investigators should get out in front of this one and publicly oppose the crass, devil-may-care approach to people’s privacy and security exhibited by zabasearch.

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