Washington Tries to Decide What to Do About Online Privacy

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Alex Howard, resident government geek at O'Reilly Media, has a great roundup of the questions swirling around online privacy this summer. Congressional hearings! Grandstanding! Acronyms! Actually, the action on the Hill is pretty important, and Howard narrates it well:

Last week, both the House and Senate held hearings on online privacy, featuring testimony from top executives from Facebook, Apple and Google. The Washington Post published a massive investigative report on the growth of "Top Secret America" in July. And the Wall Street Journal's new series on online privacy, "What They Know," has laid bare the scope of tracking technology on the Internet. In the Information Age, our family, friends, neighbors, employers and government all have unprecedented abilities to watch one another, changing the nature of our relationships, workplaces and schools. Solving the privacy dilemma will be difficult, controversial and crucial for the nation's citizens, businesses, regulators and lawmakers.

Can privacy, social media and business get along? The balance between privacy and societal benefit will be difficult to strike, given the potential to harm civil liberties and the need to preserve the expectation of privacy described by the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

Read the full story at O'Reilly Radar.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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