California Starts Up a Privacy Enforcement Unit

Watch out, Silicon Valley, there’s a new startup in town and its gunning for you. California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Thursday she’s created a unit intended to actually enforce federal and state privacy laws.

“The Privacy Unit will police the privacy practices of individuals and organizations to hold accountable those who misuse technology to invade the privacy of others,” California’s top attorney said in a statement.

The announcement of the unit, comprised of six attorneys, comes just months after Harris inked a February agreement with Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Research in Motion to demand that mobile apps on their platforms contain privacy policies. Facebook signed on last month.

If the new unit is run like a startup, it could change the world by filing a billion complaints in the next year. Hell, maybe even better, what if it filed just enough to jolt Silicon Valley out of its default policy of “invading user privacy by default and apologizing for it later,” as exemplified most recently by Path and its deep-pocketed apologists.

That’s not very likely, of course, especially since privacy laws are weak. But the success of Instagram or Facebook wasn’t likely, either. We’re looking forward to seeing what Harris’ attorneys ship.