by Becky Odell, Sales and Marketing Intern

Today is Law Day! In honor, we’re celebrating with Jon L. Mills’s new book, Privacy in the New Media Age! Marketing intern Becky Odell, completing her master of science in management at the University of Florida, has been working closely with Mills’s book. Having volunteered for political campaigns, including the 2008 Barack Obama Presidential Campaign, Becky took a quick interest in what Mills had to say about our public vs. our private lives. She wrote this piece to share what she saw as the most profound points that Mills makes and created an awesome infographic to help show just how blurred the lines are between public and private. You can see more details of the book here.

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It seems common for headlines to pop up that show just how public our lives can be. Recently, we’ve seen the large-scale leak of celebrities’ nude photos, Sony’s e-mails revealing secrets about various movie stars, and the NSA information leak triggered by former employee, Edward Snowden. These stories are only a small sampling of the privacy and free speech–related news stories that have cropped up in the past few years, but they highlight a large issue:  When can free speech be valued over privacy, and when can our right to privacy silence free speech?

In his new book, Privacy in the New Media Age, Mills explores the delicate balance between free speech and privacy. He questions whether new media sources and technology, with few laws to regulate their use, have eased free speech too much, costing us the right to keep our lives private. Readers may be shocked to learn that many details of their private lives aren’t legally protected from invasion in the United States. The infographic below gives a sample of the topics covered in Privacy in the New Media Age and illustrates how thin the legal line between public and private has become.

Privacy Infographic
Privacy Infographic by Becky Odell

What makes this debate even more complex is that legal privacy standards vary for everyone. When media sources publish information about public figures, even if it is information that could be detrimental to their reputations or careers, the information simply has to be deemed “newsworthy” to fall within legal bounds. This is a very low standard that only requires people find the information interesting. To top it off, media outlets are protected from having to release their sources, even if these sources obtained their information through illegal means.

But public figures aren’t the only people who have to worry about their private lives being made public. Even average citizens aren’t given legal protections for information that can be found through public sources, which means that internet communication, social media activity, and even mug shots are all fair game. Phone conversations, though they are shielded from third-party intrusion, can be recorded and released to media sources by any party involved in the conversation. Courts have even ruled that GPS tracking data obtained from phones is admissible evidence as long as it only discloses one location at a specific point in time.

Mills tackles all these issues and more in Privacy in the New Media Age, making it an essential read for anyone who is interested in the evolving struggle to reconcile free speech and privacy in the modern world.
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