Privacy – How Much is Too Much?

By: Katie Burch, J.D. Candidate ’14 | August 11, 2013

Privacy – How Much is Too Much?

A couple of weeks ago, I had just closed my browser, turned off my light, and was drifting off into what was supposed to be a much deserved afternoon slumber when my cell phone started to shriek. Bolting upright, I reached for my phone and groggily read “EMERGENCY: FLASH FLOOD WARNING IN YOUR AREA. SEEK SHELTER NOW” scrolling across my phone. My sleep-trodden eyes drifted to the window where a bird sat chirping on the ledge, blissfully unaware of the imminent aquatic danger it was in.

Groggily, I opened the weather application on my phone. “Local Weather: High: 98 degrees, Low: 75 degrees.” I was mystified. In fact, according to all sources I could Google, there was no rain in store for the local forecast for the foreseeable future. So why was I getting this?

Undoubtedly, the source of the false alarm was a result of my subscription to the Weather app that inadvertently sent the ill-timed alert. And quite truthfully, I had no idea that I had checked any boxes permitting the program to send me such alerts. Nevertheless, I had somehow failed in my attempt to receive the benefits of technology while remaining innocuous to the marketing powers behind the app.

And therein lies the legal problem. If you combine the rapid speed at which social media is developing, the state of current privacy laws, and the up-and-coming generations’ desires to share every minute detail of their life while remaining selectively anonymous then you, my friend, have a serious potential legal battle on your hands. When do we cross the line from merely annoying invasions of privacy to legally actionable invasions?

Take, for instance, the many companies that see social media as a means of connecting with their core consumer base. Wal-Mart, Aetna, Coca-Cola, Allstate are just a few examples of businesses which focus heavily on reaching customers in unique ways. While these and similar companies are generally limited in the amount of personal data which consumers willingly place online, the legal battle over how the information that is unwillingly or even unknowingly collected and stored.

That is precisely the subject of Connie Davis Powell’s article in Vol. 34.4 of the UALR Law Review, “Privacy for Social Networking.” Building upon her former article “You Already Have Zero Privacy, Get Over It!” Powell renders a compelling argument for a change in the regulations of social media given the inadequacy of current proposals ability to protect user privacy.