Selling the people

When creating the government that would run our country, our forefathers did their best to bestow upon this nation freedoms and rights that no other nation would have at the time. Fast-forward over 200 years later, and our society are still enjoying these freedoms. As great a job as they did, obviously the founding fathers could not have anticipated how society would change, and what would be possible in just a couple hundred years.

No matter where you go in the United States these days, you will see technology. Most importantly, there is the Internet. An online world where people post whatever they want, whenever. Why is this important? Because a huge issue that our society is having has to do with our right to privacy, and how the Internet has caused society to care less about this important right.

The right to privacy is never specifically drawn out in the Constitution, but due to Supreme Court case rulings throughout the years, the privacy granted through a few of the amendments have been broadened to apply to contemporary issues. None of these, however, deal with the Internet, which has become the number one resource for almost anything these days.

The problem with the Internet is, once something is on the Internet, it stays there.

Any personal information you may have posted, is being collected by data brokers. Data brokers are companies that collect and aggregate consumer information from a wide range of sources to create detailed profiles of individuals. These companies then sell or share your personal information with others. That’s right, your information is being harvested and sold to the highest bidder(s).

According to Pew Research, 91 percent of adults agree or strongly agree that consumers have lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies, and of the ninety-one percent, only nine percent say they feel they have “a lot” of control over how much information is collected about them. We as individuals are giving up our privacy on a medium that almost everybody in the world has access to, and it is only getting worse. Unless we begin to advocate for change and legislation for these data brokers, it will only become worse and the Internet as a whole will be tarnished. It’s a long shot, but we need to rally as a society to ensure that privacy isn’t something the next few generations give up completely.

Yes, I know this isn’t the most exciting topic, especially when the Internet is concerned, but let’s think of ourselves as intellectual property.

There are laws that protect an individual’s work, so that others can’t use it without consent or the rights. Why would our personal information be any different than our personal creations?

These data brokers are making billions upon billions of dollars every year, off of information that should belong to us. An often-used quote for this situation would be Benjamin Franklin’s assertion that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

The question I often ask myself is: what can we do about this? As I stated before, we need some type of legislation to regulate the gathering of this information, or we need the users of the Internet to respect themselves and say enough is enough.

Data brokers should be forced to send you all of the information they have gathered on you, and you should be able to control what they sell. Another long shot, but we as a society need to take back what is ours. We can’t be divided on this topic either.

Those who enjoy the convenience that the selling of their data brings need to realize they’re paying a much heavier price for this convenience than they know. How can we continue to browse the Internet with a carefree mindset, knowing everything we do is being recorded and sold?