πŸ“‘ We Need to Take Back Our Privacy

Bookmarked Opinion | We Need to Take Back Our Privacy by Zeynep Tufekci (nytimes.com)

In a post-Roe America, women will bear the costs of letting data collection undermine our liberty.

With the proposed changes to the right to abortion in United States, Zeynep Tufekci explains how we need take back our privacy. She provides a number of examples of data uses associated with Grindr, Uber and phone companies, highlighting the limits associated with de-anonymised data.

In 2020, Consumer Reports exposed that GoodRX, a popular drug discount and coupons service, was selling information on what medications people were searching or buying to Facebook, Google and other data marketing firms. GoodRX said it would stop, but there is no law against them, or any pharmacy, doing this.

That data becomes even more powerful whenmerged. A woman who regularly eats sushi and suddenly stops, or stops taking Pepto-Bismol, or starts taking vitamin B6 may be easily identified as someone following guidelines for pregnancy. If that woman doesn’t give birth she might find herself being questioned by the police, who may think she had an abortion. (Already, in some places, women who seek medical help after miscarriages have reported questioning to this effect.)

When Tufekci says ‘we’, she is talking about more than personal action, but rather collective change through law. She highlights how attempts to turn off location settings, use a burner phone or stay away from big tech are fraught, and explains how we need more systemic change.

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 β€” 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.

Sadly, as she demonstrates with the example of Louis Brandeis in 1890 responding to Kodak camera small enough to carry and loaded with 100 shots, calls to protect privacy are not new.

It is interesting to think of this in regards to discussions around digital forgetting and the idea of a hypocratic oath. I guess Tufekci’s point is that maybe some things should not be ‘remembered’ in the first place. Often we worry about the threat of cyber attacks when it could be said the greatest fear is often in plain sight.

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  • Aaron Davis

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