The Messiness of Privacy and Personal Data

Concerns about privacy and the use of our personal data continue to escalate.  Let us count the ways.  Op-Ed articles and books are being written.  The White House released its initiative on Consumer Data Privacy.  Stake holders and other parties-of-interest are taking their stands.  There is a lot of noise from every corner, but very little action.   The opinions are many, but the solutions are few.

First of all, there is confusion about the subject.  What are we talking about? Privacy of what? Personal data? National security? Property rights?  Constitutionally protected freedoms?  Which is it?  Do we really know?  What we do know is that as we move deeper into the Information Age, there are a lot of issues personal information and it use and protection that need to be resolved.

Then there are the interest groups with their specific agendas.

The Government:  Their wake-up call was 9/11 and our national security.  Cyber intelligence zoomed to the top of our list and the new Department of Homeland Security was born.  A decade after passage of The Patriot Act civil the concerns about whether the Patriot Act goes too far by scooping up too much data and violating people’s rights to privacy as still with us.  Yet, the world is a scary place and catching the bad guys is very important.

The Social Media:  Google, Facebook, Twitter and the many other purveyors of Internet-based personal information wrestle with privacy and personal data issues every day.   Such issues are the essence of their very existence.

Commerce:  Consumer privacy is on a collision course with the marketing interest of business, particularly those that use the Internet and e-commerce (which is just about everyone.)   Possession of consumer data is either a business advantage or an industry savior, but at what price?

Technology:  RFID and GPS, chip implants, cell phones, and the list goes on, and on.  Privacy versus convenience, let the battle begin.

There is a lot opportunity, a lot of activity.  However, what is missing in the rush, is a concern for the basics, and by this we mean guidance laid out for us by our founding fathers in the Bill of Rights.  The question we ask is why is it that the Personal Data Coalition is the only organization that seems to be concerned about our rights as citizens to protect our personal property (i.e. our personal data)  under the 4th Amendment?  What are we missing?  When will the Supreme Court weigh in? We need more discussion.  We need to find out.

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