In the age of the Internet-of-things, every digital device you own collects information about you, while websites, corporations and social media platforms use different techniques to surveil and track your personal data.
From where you swipe your credit card and what sites you frequent to which ads you click and other daily digital interactions, your data is being collected and relayed to build a user profile for profit.
While there are ways to prevent certain information from being collected, opting out can be tricky. A general lack of transparency prevents consumers from knowing about tracking in the first place, let alone understanding how to prevent or mitigate it. Privacy settings are rarely intuitive and user agreements are opaque.
Efforts to shore up consumer data privacy rights include Europe's implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation in 2018. In the absence of a federal data privacy law in the U.S., states and consumer advocates are taking the lead. The California Consumer Privacy Act, the nation's toughest data privacy law, went into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
What should people know about how tracking happens and how that data is used? What's the difference between 1st- and 3rd-party tracking? What are the rules related to corporate surveillance technology? How is data tracking regulated?
What other efforts are underway to address the onslaught of attacks on user privacy? What are your rights as a consumer in the digital age? What can you do to protect or regain control of your data?
More information about the CCPA and how to file a right-to-know request can be found on the Electronic Privacy Information Center's website.
- Mary Stone Ross, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and co-author of the California Consumer Privacy Act
- Bennett Cyphers, staff technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and author of the recent EFF report, "Behind the One-Way Mirror: A Deep Dive Into the Technology of Corporate Surveillance"
- Geoffrey Fowler, technology columnist for The Washington Post
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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, January 9.