Upgrading the Right to Privacy

Charles Mueller

Ninety-one percent of Americans feel like they have lost control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.  One of the United States most important values is that we have a right to privacy, and in the Digital Age this right is being eroded. Our forefathers understood the need to protect the privacy of citizens and enshrined these beliefs in the Bill of Rights to address their absence in the U.S. Constitution.  The 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 14th amendments all contain language that implies the privacy of U.S. citizens is protected. We define what privacy means by the rules and protections we create.  The improvements in data collection and storage by companies such as Google and Facebook, combined with the emergence of Big Data analytics, have created new ways to circumvent old rules that were designed to protect what we value as private.

The amount of digital information being produced by citizens is increasing exponentially year after year.  This information, our data, is being collected and stored by 3rd party data companies like Axciom who then apply Big Data analytics in order to reveal our digital identities.  The companies collect data from our actions on the web, from the digital technologies we cannot live without, from information we routinely give away, and from our spending habits. We have allowed Big Data companies access to all of this information because we appear to get something in return (search engine services, e-mail, social media, coupons, etc.). We are not being compensated for the true value of our data, which companies have no problem using to learn intimate details about our lives: the type of information we are only comfortable sharing with those closest to us, our private information.

Today is Data Privacy Day and I cannot think of a better time to draw attention to this issue so we can start a serious discussion about upgrading our privacy laws and rules. Sixty-eight percent of Americans apparently feel this way too and would support action to create stronger policies that will protect people’s privacy in the digital age.  What more evidence do we need to realize it is time to create new policies that govern the flow of data in accordance with the values of society?

Let’s get with the times and upgrade our privacy laws and regulations.

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