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Can the public get a break? Selling your online info to the police

Although scores of millions of people across the country likely still operate on the Internet without much regard to third-party eyes that might be watching their viewing/posting behavior, most of us know by now that some aspect of Big Brother has long been in play in the online realm.

Put another way: You're being watched -- at least by someone -- or something, e.g., a software tracking program or other surveillance tech tool -- routinely as you surf the Internet erroneously thinking that your privacy is solidly assured.

A recent CNN article underscores that in a big way, pointing specifically to the troubling nature of so-called "social media monitoring companies" that track users' online behavior and, well, make a detailed note of it.

And then sell that data to law enforcement agencies in North Carolina and nationally that are willing to pay for it.

That is a modern-day and well-considered business model, and it has been profitable, with police departments and other investigative entities having reportedly shelled out millions in recent years for the privilege of garnering that information for its potential use as evidence in criminal proceedings.

Certainly most people strongly object in an immediate and strong way to that.

Facebook officials certainly do. In fact, the company recently announced a new policy that flat-out forbids any site user from compiling customer information for the purpose of subsequently selling it to any police agency.

Will that work? Will it actually stop such activity?

Facebook seems to have hope that it will. The company states that it will now scrutinize the applications and marketing activities of all info-tracking companies "to see if they're advertising services that could be considered surveillance."

Carving out the public's privacy rights in an age of explosive and constant technological development has become a top-tier concern across the United States and globally. Maybe Facebook's effort to do so will have some salutary effect in achieving that goal and in inducing other online companies to follow suit with their user policies.

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