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Technology & Innovation

Data: Promiscuity & Privacy

What can and should government do to protect personal data in the burgeoning digital economy? Should we have opt-in or opt-out rules? The former would inflict a consumer price.

What’s the Big Idea?

What would be the consequences of a bipartisan bill proposing limits on what companies can do with online user activity and profile data? If we require that sharing of user data between companies be opted-into by users, and that users be able to see what data about them is being shared between companies, what might be the unexpected and undesired consequences? Big corporations have the resources to find a way around any new rules but small startups—which use user data to create new software and services – could be one of the potential and unintended victims.

What’s the Most Recent Development?

Marshall Kirkpatrick fears that potential laws requiring users to opt-in for data-sharing would unnecessarily and harmfully block the “huge flowing river of online user data.” He argues that consumers have a lot to gain from keeping the flow free. While data privacy violations can harm real people, he notes, “there’s a difference between showing private info to other individual people and machines processing personal info in bulk. It’s not the mysterious machines to be afraid of, it’s the real-live creeps you actually know.”


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