Maryland Attorney General, Doug Gansler, spoke at the law firm of Whiteford, Taylor, Preston on 20 January 2011 in Baltimore about the steps he and other States Attorney General offices are taking to protect consumers when using online social media platforms.
In particular, the issue of privacy, information tracking and how that information is either sold or shared between commercial entities was a hot topic.
According to Gansler, "the law is woefully behind the use of technology and the Internet today". As the Vice President of the National Association of Attorney Generals (NAAG), Mr. Gansler is helping law enforcement across the United States to focus more attention on how to protect consumers when they are using online applications.
This includes social media sites such as Facebook, Apple's wildly successful App store, or one of GOOGLE's many online applications. At issue is the enormous amount of personally identifiable data that is being collected, how its is used and the increasing exposure of citizens and consumers to identity fraud or worse.
Everyone has an interest in how laws are applied to online activities. Whether as a user, a consumer products company, a member of an online peer group, law enforcement, the judiciary or legal counsel, clarity is needed over how an ever increasing amount of personal data and information is used and safeguarded.
Traditionally, the Attorney General's office has focused on identifying and capturing online sexual predators, a role that was closley coordinated with Federal authorities. While those efforts to protect vulnerable children will continue, in the future, there will be more attention paid to privacy issues.
This is in part due to the increasing incidents of bullying perpetrated by individuals using false identities to torment schoolmates or work colleagues. False online identities are also being used for organized crime and fraud purposes.
An example of what the regulatory future might look like includes the FTC's "do not track" recommendation issued in December 2010. While this is a new Federal initiative, it is something that the State Attorney General's are watching. Gansler predicts that we will see more joint efforts across State lines to help protect citizens in this new and rapidly evolving legal environment.