Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Protecting privacy in an online world

Privacy isn't what it was. But even in an always-on, interconnected world, people should have control over conversations, communications and personal information they reasonably expect to remain private. The line between public and private should be clear and bright, and government has an important role in drawing it.

Companies that profit from people's personal information have an obligation to be clear about the information they collect — and what they plan to do with it. Consumers need to be informed of the privacy they are surrendering before they click that "accept" box on any online user agreement. They also need the ability to opt out and for their information to be scrubbed from the site. Government, for its part, must be increasingly active in mandating transparency on privacy policies as well as in policing abuses.

There was a hopeful sign of this last week when Google settled a case that wags nicknamed "Wi-Spy." As Google cars drove down street after street taking photos for Google Maps' Street View, they also intercepted unencrypted signals from millions of wireless networks, potentially capturing whatever data — emails, passwords, personal information — that was in the air as the cars drove by. A regulator in Australia called it "probably the single greatest breach in the history of privacy."

The settlement involved 38 states, including Florida, for Google's collection of data between 2008 and March 2010. Google admitted that violating people's privacy in that way was a mistake.

"In today's highly technological world, consumers face constant threats to their privacy and personal information," Attorney General Pam Bondi said in announcing the settlement. "We must remain vigilant in ensuring that an individual's online communications remain both private and secure." She is exactly right.

While Google will pay only $7 million — just a little more than the company makes in an hour — the settlement is not important because of the money. It's important because a company so powerful its name is a verb has admitted it was wrong and that it invaded people's privacy. It has promised to change its ways. Perhaps.

More to the point is this: The settlement tells the Facebooks, Googles and Amazons of the world — major Internet companies who profit from mining personal data — that as they watch, they are now being watched. And that there are lines they must not cross. As the era of Big Data rolls on, people still have a right to privacy, and it's important for government to protect it.

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Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18