Here Comes Privacy -- Well, Kinda

Now that the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) — a law that supposedly allows California residents to control how their data is used — is in effect, numerous reporters have tried to gather their data, only to be frustrated by the difficulty in doing so.

They are also surprised to find that in order to get their personal data, they have to give up even more of it — like multiple selfies (to prove you did not hold up a picture in front of the camera).

Clearly, privacy is still a slippery slope.

And lest you think collecting your data will be just a couple of cease-and-desist emails to Facebook, Twitter and Snap, you will be unhappy to realize that dozens, if not hundreds, of companies have personal data on you because many of them — once they collect it — sell it to the next guy.

In fact, I think I am on solid ground declaring that the chances of you erasing your data from the internet are between slim and none.



There is not a moment you are online that somebody isn’t recording nearly every keystroke of yours. And because you failed to read all those 25-page-long privacy disclaimers, you have given permission for this to happen.

You like it when the browser addresses you by name or offers you a customized list of stories to read or products to buy. This saves you time and is far more convenient than having to reenter your credentials each time you land on a web page. 

You like to think that the big internet companies will protect you and only use the data they collected about you for the reasons they gave you (like customization and a “better user experience”), and you would be dead wrong. Data is currency — and if they can make another buck sharing or giving or selling your data to a third party, you can be sure it is being done.

It does not take long for all that data to be coalesced into a somewhat accurate profile of you (although you would be stunned how far off a lot of one-off data can be).

In 2006, reporters at the New York Times looked at just the search data for one AOL user, and were able to very quickly identify her personally (and much about her life). Think of how many more crumbs you have dropped since then.

Now that you live most of your online life on your phone, not only are your interests and activities being tracked, but all of your movements. Meanwhile, Google is making a pitch to get all of your medical records. So now, in additional to being followed by the tennis shoes you didn’t buy, you’ll get the Viagra ads as well.

Was it Target that sent product offers for prospective parents that tipped off a dad his daughter was pregnant? And this was from in-store shopping, not search data!

All of this got to be too much for the Europeans (who have some historical experience at what can happened if data about a certain kind of person ends up in the wrong hands), who produced laws on which the California Consumer Privacy Act is based.

The theory was simple: Let’s give people the opportunity to see what is being collected about them and to opt out of that data being used or shared or sold.

The execution of that theory will be something else altogether.

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