Zeynep Tufekci in The New York Times: “…Congress, and states, should restrict or ban the collection of many types of data, especially those used solely for tracking, and limit how long data can be retained for necessary functions — like getting directions on a phone.
Selling, trading and merging personal data should be restricted or outlawed. Law enforcement could obtain it subject to specific judicial oversight.
Researchers have been inventing privacy-preserving methods for analyzing data sets when merging them is in the public interest but the underlying data is sensitive — as when health officials are tracking a disease outbreak and want to merge data from multiple hospitals. These techniques allow computation but make it hard, if not impossible, to identify individual records. Companies are unlikely to invest in such methods, or use end-to-end encryption as appropriate to protect user data, if they could continue doing whatever they want. Regulation could make these advancements good business opportunities, and spur innovation.
I don’t think people like things the way they are. When Apple changed a default option from “track me” to “do not track me” on its phones, few people chose to be tracked. And many who accept tracking probably don’t realize how much privacy they’re giving up, and what this kind of data can reveal. Many location collectors get their data from ordinary apps — could be weather, games, or anything else — that often bury that they will share the data with others in vague terms deep in their fine print.
Under these conditions, requiring people to click “I accept” to lengthy legalese for access to functions that have become integral to modern life is a masquerade, not informed consent.
Many politicians have been reluctant to act. The tech industry is generous, cozy with power, and politicians themselves use data analysis for their campaigns. This is all the more reason to press them to move forward…(More)”.