California group creates complaint center for online privacy issues

San Jose Mercury News


In an attempt to create a central online directory for privacy complaints against social networks and websites, a California group on Tuesday launched a service that allows people to share privacy problems with government agencies, lawyers or journalists.

The effort to create the complaint center began after a 2009 study by UC Berkeley's School of Information and its law school. The "KnowPrivacy" study found that while consumers were not aware of the personal data collection practices used by websites and social networks to track their movements online, they nevertheless wanted more control over their personal information. Consumers also are confused, the study found, about where they can go to make a complaint.

"We found that consumers did not know where to file complaints, and when they did, many filed with industry-run groups," Chris Hoofnagle, a lecturer at the Berkeley law school and an expert in information privacy law, said in an email. "Those groups almost never refer complaints to public authorities."

The new complaint tool is a collaborative project with the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley, and was funded by grants from the Rose Foundation and California Consumer Protection Foundation.