Privacy Isnt a Right You Can Click Away

 wired.com  06/29/2020 13:00:00   Sherrod Brown

Be honesthave you ever read a privacy disclosure? Even once?

Facebooks data privacy policy is more than 4,000 words. It contains dozens of links to hundreds of pages of complex terms and agreements. Even if you had the time to read it, youd need a law degree and a data science background to understand which rights youre signing away and what frightening experiments Facebook is cooking up with your private life as raw material.

And even if you do have handfuls of advanced degrees and a superhuman ability to read the hundreds of privacy policies you agree to every year, clicking No isnt a realistic option when you depend on the service. So most of us click Yes and agree to sign away our information, because our credit cards, mortgages, car loans, bank accounts, health apps, smart phones, and email accounts all require us to. Its simply the price of admission.

Privacy is a civil right. But corporations force you to sign it away every day.

Theres a reason these privacy and data agreements are impossible to understand and to avoid: They were never meant to protect youthey are meant to protect Big Tech.

We dont expect citizens to be aeronautical engineers, making sure they understand all the risks of flying, and then sign a form giving away their right to sue if the plane goes down. In the same way, we cant expect everyone to be a privacy expert just so they can protect their families from corporations that want to exploit their data.

To reclaim our privacy we need to limit the amount of personal information thats out there.

Thats why I wrote a bill that takes the burden off of consumers and puts it where it should be: on Big Tech. My plan separates innovative and helpful uses of data from the abusive and invasive practices that have become commonplace. It creates an agency to monitor companies that collect data and gives everyday Americans powerful legal tools to hold those companies accountable. It also bans facial recognition, an immature and dangerous technology, outright.

My bill would drastically scale back the permitted uses of your personal data, banning companies from collecting any data that isnt strictly necessary to provide you with the service you asked for. For example, signing up for a credit card online wont give the bank the right to use your data for anything elsenot marketing, and certainly not to use that data to sign you up for five more accounts you didnt ask for (were looking at you, Wells Fargo).

Its not only the specific companies you sign away your data to that profit off itthey sell it to other companies youve never heard of, without your knowledge. And all of that data flowing through online stores and social media sites can be harvested by the government too. Theres no check box to opt out of that. When you sign away your privacy rights to a corporation, youve basically given the government permission to sift through your secrets as well.

Recently, a company called Clearview AI scoured the internet to train facial-recognition technology that it sold to law enforcement around the country. Facial recognition is reportedly being used by police in Minneapolis and other places, to target Black Lives Matter protesters exercising their First Amendment rights. And this dangerous and powerful technology was responsible for the wrongful arrest of a man in Michigan. Do you know anyone who consented to that?

This plan would put a stop to Big Tech mining your data and selling it to abusive corporations or the government. The right to privacy or the right to peacefully protest isnt something we should lose by clicking "I agree." Under my plan, you could rest easy knowing that regardless of the 4,000-word privacy policy shoved in your face, its illegal for your data to be bought and sold, or sent to law enforcement.

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