Surveillance and Privacy

Privacy advocates say that tracking consumers has reached alarming levels and are calling on Congress to better protect consumer privacy says The Center for Digital Democracy, a coalition of 11 consumer and privacy advocacy organizations.

“This tracking is an invasion of privacy... Consumers now rely on the Internet and other digital services for a wide variety of transactions,” the groups wrote. “These include sensitive activities, such as health and financial matters. In these contexts, tracking people’s every move online is not simply a matter of convenience or relevance. It presents serious risks to consumers’ privacy, security and dignity.”

The groups argue that self-regulation for privacy will not protect consumers, and that law enforcement access to personal data should require a warrant. They are also requesting that the ability of websites and ad networks to collect or use behavioral data should be limited to 24 hours, and that websites should not collect or use sensitive information for behavioral tracking or targeting. The FTC should be tasked with defining sensitive information, it suggests, and that personal data should be obtained only by lawful and fair means and, unless unlawful or impossible, with the knowledge or consent of the individual.

For the other side of the argument lies the defense that tracking technologies are exclusively for the purpose of safety, welfare, and the betterment of our way of life. I recently spoke to an individual who posed no hesitation in the tracking technologies that are used by search engines because it makes his online experience filled with less internet garbage. It will be a debate that will continue into the future.

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