Is it a natural right to keep your personal life from being commoditized?

Posted by RobertFl 3 years, 5 months ago to Philosophy
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With Facebook, Google, Equifax, etc collecting all kinds of information about us, what you like, dislike, what you buy, your politics, do they have a right to collect that data, analyze it, and sell it?
What liability do they have, say, when they get it wrong? Like, they analyze you and concluded you're X when you're really Y. Have you ever tried to get an error fixed on a credit report? Pretty hard, usually all it is is a note in the folder no one will ever read.
What is the limit between someone drawing conclusions on you based on their personal observations (they like the color red, and are allergic to peanuts), and someone collecting and selling it? When do you lose ownership of the information.


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  • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 3 years, 5 months ago
    I don't think that you own other people's or organizations perception of you. If you buy something from a store on credit, you don't own the record of your bill payments to them. That's a real world observation that they have made, they are free to divulge it.

    Of course there can be liabilities with respect to making inaccurate negative statements about someone.
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    • Posted by 3 years, 5 months ago
      "Perception", I would agree.
      Who has the right to hold your personal information (SS, phone, mothers maiden) what responsibility do they have to secure it (or sell it)?
      Can a receipt be sold? Is that not a record of a "private" transaction? Why is selling my SS# or CreditC# wrong, but not the fact I bought a bottle of whiskey? What is the agreement between customer and merchant regarding our transaction? Why is it ok to sell my birth date?
      What about these funny, ambiguous Terms of Use agreements, "by using our service you agree we may disclose certain information to other 3rds parties 'we feel may be of service to you'". Nope, no disclosure as to who, when and what. Shouldn't we have the right to first refusal?
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      • Posted by ewv 3 years, 5 months ago
        At least some private information, such as that used to protect yourself and your finances, should be legally protected. When it is released there are enormous personal damages through the threat of or actual theft, the nightmare of cleaning it up and changing your account identification, and the fact that once it is out there is no way to reverse it. This is in addition to the damage caused by false information disseminated.

        There are zealous laws against hacking computer systems -- some of which improperly make legitimate private activities illegal -- but organizations are allowed to collect whatever they want through surveillance with no accountability for what they do with it and how they carelessly expose it.

        This is not a matter of a "natural right" but a problem of how to formulate laws protecting rights when new technology is developed. It is crucial that it be pursued in that form and not allowed to become another excuse for government regulation controlling how companies or anyone else operates as opposed to defining and enforcing the relevant civil rights. The government establishment approach is 'never let a crisis go to waste' for gaining more power.
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        • Posted by ewv 3 years, 5 months ago
          We're already seeing the usual form of strident calls for a vague government 'intervention into the failed market' through sweeping regulatory control, including empowering the FTC. Here is a prominent call for such action in response to the Equifax scandal at CNN http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/11/opinion...

          There is no mention of defining what rights of the individual are violated or how to objectively enforce them, just vague, open-ended "complain to your government", "Market failures like this can only be solved through government intervention", etc.

          Here we go again, but no one should be surprised.

          There has been no "market failure", only the usual failure of government to objectively define civil rights in the context of a new technology and enforce them. The Orren Boyles of big business, which is rarely any defender of the rights of the individual and political freedom, have simply exploited that. It's another failure of government, not the market.

          Putting government bureaucrats in charge of "regulating" what people can and must do in the name of "security" through non-objective laws would be the usual regulatory disaster, including in this case the crippling of unapproved innovative security, arbitrary edicts, time- and resource-consuming bureaucratic red tape, posturing and delays by bureaucrats to protect themselves from responsibility (as at the FDA) -- all driving up costs artificially -- and a mechanism giving government surveillance agencies their long sought "back doors" and security-crippling intervention for their own benefit at the expense of our rights.

          The big data brokers like Equifax, Facebook and Google have a lot invested in surveilling, compiling, buying, and selling other people's private information, with us as their product, and will not easily surrender any of it. This has been let go for so long that much of the internet economy is now exploiting it.

          At first, regulations would be heavily influenced by such companies writing regulations to regulate themselves, with their own privacy-violating goals built in as they rush to 'compromise' by being part of a new regime -- just as the big health insurance companies 'pragmatically' allied themselves with the secret planning of "single payer" Hillary Care in the 1990s when they thought there was political momentum to put it over. It isn't correcting a market; it's literally fascistic.

          Under changing administrations in the future, the usual ideological turf battles would cause wild swings in policy and in what interests are being served by fiat (as with the history of the FTC and FDA), until another government bureaucracy eventually becomes thoroughly entrenched, sitting on an entire field of technology, destroying our freedom and hobbling our ability to produce, use it, innovate, and protect ourselves.

          Yet the author of this CNN article calling for vague government intervention and control is Bruce Scheier, an internationally respected security expert with strong civil liberties leanings and support of privacy. He has written numerous books, including a classic text on the mathematics of cryptography, is the Chief Technology Officer of IBM Resilient -- a security company he founded and sold to IBM, is an expert on and has personally reviewed the Snowden documents, is a critic of the massive government invasion of privacy while supporting the need for government security agencies in principle, and is on the board of the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

          But with his well-deserved fame has come his affiliation with establishment academics such as the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he lectures, and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School https://cyber.harvard.edu/ -- where the influence of progressive Pragmatism and statist economics reigns and is glad to ideologically influence him while exploiting his reputation and genuine desire to solve a problem. They don't know any better either.

          In Scheier's defense of privacy he has, despite his inclinations for freedom, indicated no understanding of the proper principles of government to protect the rights of the individual under objective law with limits on power -- like most people he makes no distinction between protecting objectively defined rights versus vague powers of government regulation naively expected to somehow address a real problem without creating more and worse problems.

          Once again, we are expected to believe that a bureaucracy of 'technical experts' who know what is best can be trusted and expected to tell others what to do under non-objective powers.

          Schneier has called for government intervention against what he is calls the "market failures" previously, but with the latest Equifax scandal and the growing public anger over a real problem, the danger of destructive government regulation without protecting the rights of both consumers and technology producers is growing.
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          • Posted by ewv 3 years, 5 months ago
            Here is an example of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School (no gagging or laughing allowed, this is not April 1):

            https://cyber.harvard.edu/publication...

            Partisan Right-Wing Websites Shaped Mainstream Press Coverage Before 2016 Election, Berkman Klein Study Finds

            "The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University today released a comprehensive analysis of online media and social media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. The report, "Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election," documents how highly partisan right-wing sources helped shape mainstream press coverage and seize the public’s attention in the 18-month period leading up to the election.

            "In this study, we document polarization in the media ecosystem that is distinctly asymmetric. Whereas the left half of our spectrum is filled with many media sources from center to left, the right half of the spectrum has a substantial gap between center and right. The core of attention from the center-right to the left is large mainstream media organizations of the center-left. The right-wing media sphere skews to the far right and is dominated by highly partisan news organizations,” co-author and principal investigator Yochai Benkler stated. In addition to Benkler, the report was authored by Robert Faris, Hal Roberts, Bruce Etling, Nikki Bourassa, and Ethan Zuckerman.

            "The fact that media coverage has become more polarized in general is not new, but the extent to which right-wing sites have become partisan is striking, the report says."

            https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/337...

            "In this study, we analyze both mainstream and social media coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election. We document that the majority of mainstream media coverage was negative for both candidates, but largely followed Donald Trump’s agenda: when reporting on Hillary Clinton, coverage primarily focused on the various scandals related to the Clinton Foundation and emails. When focused on Trump, major substantive issues, primarily immigration, were prominent. Indeed, immigration emerged as a central issue in the campaign and served as a defining issue for the Trump campaign.

            "We find that the structure and composition of media on the right and left are quite different. The leading media on the right and left are rooted in different traditions and journalistic practices. On the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations steeped in the traditions and practices of objective journalism. "

            https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/ha...

            "The more insulated right-wing media ecosystem was susceptible to sustained network propaganda and
            disinformation
            , particularly misleading negative claims about Hillary Clinton. Traditional media accountability
            mechanisms—for example, fact-checking sites, media watchdog groups, and cross-media criticism—appear
            to have wielded little influence on the insular conservative media sphere. Claims aimed for 'internal'
            consumption within the right-wing media ecosystem were more extreme, less internally coherent, and
            appealed more to the 'paranoid style' of American politics
            than claims intended to affect mainstream media reporting."
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            • Posted by Lucky 3 years, 5 months ago
              I do not praise long posts in general but this one is good.
              Your instruction about Harvard Law School came too late, I am pleased to report.
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              • Posted by ewv 3 years, 5 months ago
                Too late for what?

                I only posted it as a secondary follow up because I had mentioned that Law School group earlier in contrast to Schneier's other background. Otherwise it belongs in another topic, maybe like Hillary's book with the same nonsense..
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          • Posted by $ Thoritsu 3 years, 5 months ago
            EWV you are fountain of good information!
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            • Posted by ewv 3 years, 5 months ago
              I have been following Bruce Schneier for years. He is an excellent source of information on this topic. It's sad that he's been captured by the establishment pragmatist statist crowd and its anti-market economic and political ideology, as if that were the solution and there is no other.
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              • Posted by ewv 3 years, 3 months ago
                The Equifax scandal was the topic of a hearing held by the House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection on “Securing Consumers’ Credit Data in the Age of Digital Commerce” Nov. 1, 2017. https://energycommerce.house.gov/hear...

                Schneier gave an interesting account of the Equifax ordeal. He identified how it happened through negligence and one basic source of the problem as the fact that privacy is being inevitably violated for people who are the "product" not the "customer". He gave some interesting technical proposals that the data brokers have no incentive to implement.

                Schneier full testimony: http://docs.house.gov/meetings/IF/IF1...

                Video of Schneier summary presentation: https://youtu.be/4_ydofXb7mU?t=2460

                Qustions and discussion followed the witness presentations in the video.

                But instead of calling for defining and protecting property rights, he generally called for more vague government controls and rules for security ('authorize the FTC to figure out what to do') as the false alternative to what he calls "market failure".

                As previously discussed on this page here https://www.galtsgulchonline.com/post..., of course "the market" will not automatically protect rights; it isn't supposed to. That is what a proper government is for.

                But this is being used to argue for more improper government controls of the usual kind, in the name of 'doing something', as a solution to the growing privacy problem instead of protecting the rights of the individual. Apologists for the data broker companies are just as bad as they try to avoid or minimize government action of any kind; they don't want their free ride off their "products'" property rights to be stopped. Others have no idea what to recommend and are likely to vote for anything to give the appearance they are supporting their constituents.
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  • Posted by ajsenti 3 years, 5 months ago
    I think most of the discussion on this topic misses the point. When you buy an equity, don't you have an expectation of anonymity? Why then would we have anything less in any "private" transaction. Credit reporting first and foremost has harmed this principle. At first it's benefits to creditors was mitigated by a multitude of assurances of privacy to the public. Yet now these very abusers contend your commercial record is their property? Not joint property held in trust. There's always been a reliance on the privacy of our transactional records. That such would not be subject to external scrutiny without our consent. This principle has been eroded by the very merchants to whom we've entrusted them. All commerce is based on trust. If we fail to honor historically reliable assumptions about our exchanges we will have the alternative, regulation and government control which is not personal or property at all.
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  • Posted by jdg 3 years, 5 months ago
    I would change the law so that companies you entrust with private data about yourself, including where you live, are fiduciaries, responsible to you to protect that data as you would yourself. This would also eliminate the "third party exception" to warrant requirements for search and seizure.

    But as the law is now, we're stuck with the status quo. And I'm sure Google and the rest have plenty of lobbyists paying bribes to keep it that way.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 3 years, 5 months ago
    I agree with what WS said.

    Some of the responsibility is on the person who buys info from a credit bureau or social media company. One company might hire people based on credit score, figuring if their credit's all messed up, their life might be too. Another company might dig in deeper, not using the score. Maybe someone tricked the bank into lending them money by forging someone's signature, commonly called "identity theft". The bank might wrongly trash the credit of the person whose signature was forged because they want to collect from someone and the impostor is broke, hiding, etc.

    I don't call it identity theft b/c it's a case of Party A impersonating Party B to get Party C to give money to Party A. Party A is a crook. Party C got defrauded. Party B's good name is at risk if everyone believes B took the money instead of an impostor.

    These are age-old problems of people tarnishing someone's good name based on an honest misunderstanding/disagreement or intentional slander. The information doesn't travel by horseback anymore, but it's the an age-old problem.
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    • Posted by 3 years, 5 months ago
      Is Equifax in the business of providing a persons credit risk assessment, or their personal information?
      Equaifax can provide a credit evaluation without divulging any other information. I think it's very dangerous, to us, to allow them to be a source of personal information.
      If someone already knows your phone number, and address, you do not need to fill-in missing information for them.
      No need to reply back with: "and their birthday xx/yy/zzzz".
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      • Posted by ewv 3 years, 5 months ago
        Credit reports contain a large volume of information on sources of income and debt, detailed payment history, names and addresses, and other personal information. Some of this is useful in assessing the meaning of the credit score, especially since it is now illegal to base a score on some factors like bankruptcy and accounts written off as uncollectable, but the reports are disseminating much much more than credit risk assessment. It seems that the wrong information is being made illegal.
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  • Posted by LibertyBelle 3 years, 5 months ago
    If you do not want something to be seen by everybody in the United States, don't put it on the Internet.
    (Of course, no one has a right to fraudulently use your Social Security number, even if you are dumb enough to put it on the Internet, put putting it there is still a dumb thing to do).
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    • Posted by ewv 3 years, 5 months ago
      This problem is far beyond 'putting it on the internet'. Credit cards and other forms of financial and private information existed long before the internet. Networking and computers have only provided a more efficient tool for transmission, surveillance, and hacking of data, and you can't avoid the modern network infrastructure no matter how careful you try to be..
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      • Posted by LibertyBelle 3 years, 5 months ago
        Perhaps so. Maybe if you fill out a paper job appli-
        cation (and often employers won't take those), when they do a background check, maybe they will put your information on the Internet, even if you don't. I get around some identity problems by not having a credit card. Mostly I pay for what I want with cash or money orders.
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        • Posted by ewv 3 years, 5 months ago
          As long as everyone else is digitizing their records you are vulernable. That is one of the effects of Obamacare requiring doctors to digitize their notes and records on you and make it accessible in centralized databases.

          With all that plus the cameras everywhere they don't even have to try to track you with chips in the coins and paper bills you pay with.
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  • Posted by $ Abaco 3 years, 5 months ago
    I took care of this problem from erasing any personal info from the internet. I feel like a man on a faraway dark planet at times without facebook. But, it also feels very liberating.
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    • Posted by ewv 3 years, 5 months ago
      You may be far away, but the information on you is still there -- whether or not you ever used, or stopped using, facebook. It is not the only source.
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      • Posted by $ Abaco 3 years, 5 months ago
        I'm still better off than if I had not done my best to erase all my info from the internet.
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        • Posted by ewv 3 years, 5 months ago
          It may seem so, and staying off sites like facebook and google is good, but there is more out there than you can keep up with and most of it you have no say about at all. There are many sites offering information about you that you don't even know about to be able to tell them to remove it. Almost everyone who has records on you for anything is digitizing them. You can try to minimize what is known what you think by not posting, but that would include this site, too, and you can't do anything about what is already out there.
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  • Posted by $ blarman 3 years, 5 months ago
    PII (Personally-Identifiable Information) should belong to the individual - not the store. Their ability to use that information should hinge on the individual's being paid for that use. And they should have a fiduciary duty to safeguard any and all PII upon penalty of damages.
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