The recent news on AT&T's plan to go ahead with implementing a traffic monitoring tool and another scathing report on data protection policies in U.K. organizations give a bleak picture of responsible handling of user privacy.
AT&T seems to be gunning for the support of RIAA and MPAA folks (ArsTechnica) with its plans to implement a monitoring service that would theoretically flag serial violators of copyright laws. The issue is not that simply solved since there's a deluge of data out there from legal iTunes, fair use material to encrypted torrents. While the specifics are only getting figured out, considering the massive backbone infrastructure that AT&T provides across the United States, any minor glitches in the system could adversely affect many users.
Also, BBC's report on the lackadaisical data protection policy in U.K. organizations has Internet firms topping the list of laggards. Even if we assume that perfection in implementing data protection may be a far call, if organizations (such as AT&T) begin to institutionalize user activity monitoring, the chances of lapses resulting in serious losses for users gets compounded. And coupling that with the complexity of implementing a sound and accurate system, such as what AT&T plans, is a recipe for privacy disaster.