Privacy: There's just no percentage in it
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Privacy.
The word doesn’t mean what it used to. Short of being a recluse, it would be nearly impossible for a person to avoid the collection of their private information: what they do, who they are, who they know, what they own.
You can’t reasonably expect a business to turn down the chance to profit from a such a valuable asset as personal information, particularly when the material is so easy to collect. People can exercise some control over what personal information the collectors sweep up, who’s doing the sweeping, and how the businesses and public agencies use the data they gather.
Some control, but not much control.
The best privacy approach is to be stingy about sharing. Protect your privacy by actually being private – what a novel approach!
The business case: privacy is an obstacle to profitability
Organizations of all types have no qualms about selling what they know about their customers. “Everybody’s doing it, so why not us?” The companies claim there’s no risk to the public because their personal information is anonymized. They’re mistaken.
In “Trading privacy for the public good, November 18, 2014” from November 2014, I linked to an O’Reilly Radar post from May 2011 entitled “Why you can’t really anonymize your data,” which was written by Pete Warden. (I must reiterate that I’m not the O’Reilly of O’Reilly Radar – that O’Reilly would be Tim O’Reilly, who is an incredibly knowledgeable fellow and also seems to be a really nice guy.)
Back in January 2015, I wrote about “Why you should care about your loss of privacy.” The primary danger resulting from the erosioWhat's the best way to fix the broken U.S. political system? February 3, 2015n of privacy is the use of that information to our disadvantage and to the unfair advantage of another. The more someone knows about you, the easier it is for them to manipulate, control, or even coerce you.
Who’s in charge here, anyway?
Suppose we wanted to exercise a little more control over the collection and use of our personal information? We aren’t likely to find relief in Washington, D.C. Billionaires and their corporations run things. As the Nation’s Tom Engelhardt writes in a February 27, 2017, article, the billionaires have been in charge for a long time.
Anyone who doubts the takeover of the federal government by corporate interests need look no further for proof than the failure of the Republican-controlled Congress to investigate the Administration’s ties to Russia, and the President’s continuing violations of the Emoluments Clause. In a February 23, 2017, article, New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chiat reports on the failure of this basic check on executive branch.
We are now absent a Constitutional government. The billionaire class has wrested full control from the people. The only way for the people to wrest government back is by workers joining together to fight the ruling corporate class – at the ballot box and at the cash register.
Government/corporate assault on workers is underway
There is no doubt that the Republicans are in the process of removing any government regulations that they deem are obstacles to business: The BBC’s ongoing list of executive orders includes attacks on water quality, and removing restrictions the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act imposed on banks to prevent the near-meltdown of 2008, as the New York Post’s Bob Fredericks reports in a February 4, 2017, article.
ProPublica’s Justin Elliott writes in a February 10, 2017, article about one of the new administration’s first executive orders, which wiped out many ethics rules enacted by President Obama. One of the rules tossed out was the one prohibiting lobbyists from being hired by agencies they recently lobbied. Exhibit A of the swamp being expanded rather than “drained” is the Department of Labor hiring Geoff Burns, who “spent much of the last decade as the chief lobbyist for a powerful construction industry trade group,” according to Elliott.
When it comes to deregulation, the Republicans are just getting warmed up
What’s happening now in the federal government is a dream come true for the Heritage Foundation, as the Progressive’s Christopher D. Cook writes in a February 14, 2017, article. In 1989, the Heritage Foundation’s “Mandate for Leadership” promoted massive deregulation as a means of promoting the group’s radical free-market ideology.
According to Cook, the Heritage Foundation’s plan included “repealing the minimum wage, resisting employer-based health insurance and child care, and gutting job training programs.” That is precisely the dismantling of worker protections that is now underway. If you want to see what’s coming next, just peruse the group’s “Blueprint for a New Administration” PDF.
The plan includes repealing the Davis-Bacon Act that requires federal government contractors pay their workers prevailing wages, making OSHA compliance voluntary rather than penalty-based, restricting the National Labor Relations Board’s ability to promote timely union elections, and eliminating collective bargaining for public sector union workers.
Data brokers: A fascist’s best friends?
If you wonder what risk you face from the misuse of your personal information, consider a potential employer having unfettered access to your complete medical, financial, and social-media history. Now throw in all your viewing and reading habits, and maybe even your voting history. Some personal information you would prefer that people not have.
Amnesty International and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are two of 17 organizations that penned a letter to data brokers calling for the brokers not to cooperate with the Administration’s plans to create Muslim and immigrant registries. Vocativ’s Joshua Kopstein reports on the letter in a February 28, 2017, article.
A recent report by Amnesty International found that the information required to create a Muslim or immigrant registry is readily available from private data brokers. The usual customers of the data brokers are government agencies and advertisers; the information for sale includes people’s names, ages, ethnicity, location, household income, and religious affiliation.
The Amnesty International report cites one data broker, ExactData.com, that claims to offer such lists as “Americans with Bosnian Muslim Surnames” and “Unassimilated Hispanic Americans.” The site claims to have the names of almost 2 million Muslim Americans that it will sell to anyone for $138,380, or 7.5 cents per name.
You know the data brokers have your name in at least one of their categories. What happens when that category is next in line for government mistreatment?
Why YouTube is like a walk through the seedy side of town: BuzzFeed’s Joseph Bernstein writes that YouTube is now the king of disinformation and plain-old hateful lies.
Why Google is not a friend of the worker: Reuters’ Daniel Wiessner reports on a former googler’s suit claims the company’s gag order barring employees from discussing the company – even with other employees – violates state labor laws. Is Google’s “Stopleaks” policy really a spying program? Let’s see… quacks like a duck, walks like a duck…. Plus: Google violates its own AdSense policy by continuing to buy ads from Breitbart.com, as reported by Levi Maaia.
Why Facebook is really an ad network – and not a very nice one: Facebook seriously overstated the value of the ads that it showed on its site – for the third time in a matter of months, as The Drum’s Samuel Scott writes. The company’s failed experiment in “programmatic advertising,” which placed ads on sites without human intervention, led to a Mercedes Benz ad appearing next to ISIS propaganda, for example.
Two sources for truthful reporting: There’s no question journalism is under attack. I blame the corporatization of the media, as I wrote in “What’s the best way to fix the broken U.S. political system?” in February 2015. Six corporations own 90 percent of all media in the country. Corporations don’t care about truth, they care about profits.
Two media outlets that honor the truth above all else are ProPublica and Human Rights Watch, which current features an article by Maria McFarland Sanchez-Romero on the Administration’s crusade against critics.
Touchy, touchy, touchy!