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Public data vs. privacy protections

Widespread sharing of information poses challenges for data firms

SAN FRANCISCO -- When it comes to federal regulation of personal privacy information, the U.S. is a bit like the Old West.

The closest the federal government comes to a privacy regulator is the Federal Trade Commission, said Joanne McNabb, chief of the California Office of Privacy Protection, which was the first state-created agency dedicated to consumer privacy rights when it opened in 2001.

"In the United States we don't really have a comprehensive regulation of personal information privacy -- this contrasts with a lot of the rest of the developed world, where they do have a comprehensive approach," said McNabb, who participated on a panel focused on privacy issues during the first-ever Inman News Data Summit, held July 25-26, 2011.

And complicating privacy is the fact that we are "living in the public square," due to the march of communications technology and ...