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Ex-Government Official: The Private Sector Is Threatening Your Privacy

"The implications of the NSA data breach are going to be greater in the context of protecting consumers' commercial privacy," Jon Leibowitz said.

"The implications of the NSA data breach are going to be greater in the context of protecting consumers' commercial privacy," Jon Leibowitz said. // Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP file photo

Former Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz spent a career advocating more thorough protection of consumer information from inquiring private sector eyes. So perhaps it's no surprise that even in light of the recent shocking revelations about government surveillance of U.S. citizens' phone andemail traffic, he thinks companies pose an equal threat to people's privacy.

"The implications of the NSA data breach are going to be greater in the context of protecting consumers' commercial privacy," he said at an event on privacyco-hosted by The Atlantic and National Journal on Thursday. "People are increasingly concerned about their own privacy vis-à-vis commercial entities... Americans are going to be concerned about this breach, and things will move much more quickly into the commercial context."

His argument boiled down to this: Outcry from the media, members of Congress, and everyday citizens may not prompt the government to change its ways, even if there are hearings about the Snowden leaks. On the plus side, though, it might sufficiently spook previously unsuspecting Internet users into demanding more control over their information. That means protection from third parties, like advertising or data mining companies, who use cookies to track what people do on the internet — what they buy, watch, read, and more.

Read more at The Atlantic.

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