We’re Not Going to Take It Anymore

We’ve given up too much control over our digital lives. We need a law to take some of it back.

Comments: 190

  1. Privacy issues are important concerns for a society showing no signs of parting ways with modern technology. It is also worth mentioning that an equally fundamental component of modern technology - patented computer code - poses an even higher threat to life as we know it. If outright legal ownership of an abstract business idea continues to be condoned, regardless of how much brainpower went into writing it, we'll likely see ourselves living in a world we'd rather not share on Facebook.

  2. I think computer programming is a language, and it becomes more and more valuable than a natural language. In contemporary days, computer language helps people to understand electronic devices and programs in many ways. I don’t understand why you said: “ I fervently believe that foreign language learning is essential for children’s development into informed and productive citizens of the world.” In my perspective, learning a foreign language is not necessary. For instance, when we decide to have a trip to another foreign country, it is not needed for us to spend a lot of times in learning that country's language. We can use a more convenient approach to overcome the language problem: using translators in the phones. Moreover, computer language try to become a oral language in last few years. Thus, I believe that computer language can help people communicate with others all over the world in the future. Some research shows, many countries in Europe and Asia have already consider English as their second language, which means nearly all the European can speak and understand English. This phenomenon implies that the unified language is the trend of modern living. If you can speak English well, why don’t you spend some time on computer language learning? Thus, it is more important to learn a computer language rather than a foreign language.

  3. @Qingtian Zhou, maybe. However, if you really want to learn about other cultures, other ways of thinking, other options on how to live, there is no better way than learning another language. In this sense, the computer language may help you, too. However, it is still poor when compared to the centuries of learning, knowledge, history, and experience that any other human language brings. In fact, most of the principles of computer language were extracted from language studies. People should not devalue what is richer from the start.

  4. There's an assumption individuals had a choice here? How many people do you think would opt out of all these technological gimmicks that are designed to take information and permit corporations and the government to track everything they do? Where are the people we have elected to represent us and protect our rights, in particular, the right to privacy? This is another example of an unregulated market where consumers have gotten ripped off and will continue to.

  5. @John Q. Public " How many people do you think would opt out of all these technological gimmicks that are designed to take information and permit corporations and the government to track everything they do? " I have done so, and I work with computers for a living. That fact is one of the things that made me decide to give up my devices. The gimmicks aren't worth it. I honestly don't care how many steps I've taken in any given day - instead I just go to the gym. While I'm there I forego listening to my own music and if I'm doing cardio I read an actual paper book. I print out maps and occasionally hail an actual taxi instead of using uber or lyft. I'm old enough to remember what life was like before we relied so heavily on the apps in our phones. We got along just fine.

  6. Nice Ben, but they’re still watching you. Your efforts are only cursory.

  7. @Ben And when the cloud blows up and it will, we will have a generation of kids wandering around like zombies. They will not be able to survive in an analogue world for long. They won't even be able to hand write, do math or read a map without being connected. Their brains are being re-wired to not think, just react.

  8. We can do better. First, McNealy’s statement that regulation would “hinder innovation, and ... the costs of compliance would hurt small companies” is robotic. It’s what the oligarchy always says at inflection points like this which directly promotes stasis in the public square. But regulation puts a floor under all actors giving them all the same advantages or disadvantages. So it hurts no one. Of all of the billions I see VC’s investing in the equivalent of electric powered turtleneck sweaters, I think we could use a little less “innovation”. The fact is that we’re at the end of the tech boom and lots of useless stuff is hitting the market. Second, regulating the tech companies gives state actors free rein to continue doing bad stuff and even invites them to become the data providers of last resort, a chilling prospect. Therefore, we need a treaty, equivalent to The Law of the Sea or the Geneva Conventions on War to begin the regulation process. Fold it into the WTO so that non-compliance threatens a nation’s legitimate interests and then you have something.

  9. I’m struggling to find something informed to add to this thoughtful letter. But it says it all. Readers....reread it and take a screen shot.

  10. @Skutch Thanks so much!

  11. @Denis Thank you! This answers McNeely's knee-jerk anti-regulation response brilliantly. And I think you're also making a powerful argument for Federal (or even international)regulation rather than leaving this to states. This is a perfect example of a problem that the Federal government is uniquely situated to solve. A crazy quilt assortment of 50 different laws, regulations, agencies, etc. to police tech companies will be ineffective and ultimately, both more cumbersome for companies to comply with and easier for them to evade. The privacy rights and needs of a person in California are no different from the person in Nebraska. There's no reason for already over-burdened states to take on what the Feds ought to do, and a can do more effectively.

  12. Relying on government, which is run mostly by old white men who are clueless about technology and its advancements, is a recipe for failure. While it might be nice to think that government can save us from the ever-worsening privacy nightmare into which we are thoughtlessly descending, unfortunately government's role here is always going to be reactive due to the fast pace of technological change. What we have to do is educate ourselves. We have to make informed decisions, and reading the ToS is both impractical and unrealistic. Companies often break their own ToS's in order to collect more data on us. Ultimately this is going to be a tradeoff between convenience and exposure. Like any decision, you can't really make it until you're informed. I made the decision to ditch my smartphone entirely. That may be extreme for many, but I've found it works wonders for me. Don't want to go that far? Install the adblock browser. Remove apps you don't use. Learn about how signing into other apps through facebook gives facebook access to everything you do in that app. Ultimately we are the ones who control our own data. No matter how insidious these companies (or governments for that matter) ultimately become in their efforts at breaching our privacy, we have to opt-in.

  13. @Ben I set all the highest privacy settings Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have offered me, and instructed them all not to serve personalized ads. I rarely use my smartphone and even more rarely browse the web on it. I always sign out from Facebook as soon as I finish with it, and never use Facebook, Google, or Microsoft logins on other sites. I went to the Digital Advertising Association's AdChoices site and opted out of all the personalized advertising there (which led immediately to a flurry of personalized ads telling me how wonderful personal digital advertising is). So last week I did a web search on a specific business topic, and 8 hours later, ads related to that topic started appearing in my Facebook feed. I guess I didn't do enough. I should have run an ad blocker that hurts web publishers. I should be using Duck Duck Go. Or maybe Tor. It's clearly my own fault.

  14. @Ben. Old white men? Ageism is ugly in any form.

  15. @Thomas Smith I count myself in that demographic - it was meant to be self-effacing :)

  16. I agree data sharing legislation might improve privacy but there are additional options which are to not cooperate with systems that too often expose personal data. Switch to a flip phone and toss away the smart phone. You life will improve markedly by not having needless social media or "alert" intrusions. Contrary to the common retort, anyone can conduct business using flip phone calls and/or simple text. The smart phone is merely a convenience, not a necessity. Additionally, on all computers and mobile devices, always deny "location sharing" and data sharing options. Use cash instead of credit whenever possible. You'll be surprised how often it is possible. For large purchases, use a personal or bank check. Along a similar vein, deny any request for phone numbers, zip codes or other supposed "market data" at time of purchase. Whenever you buy something via the Internet with a credit card, unless you always read all user agreement conditions, chances are you've just given away lots of personal data. Try this experiment. Switch to a flip phone, use cash and checks plus other "old school" consumer methods for a month and see if your life improves in unexpected ways in addition to you managing your own privacy better.

  17. @Question Everything if you are older and grew up without technology, you already did all of this for decades. I did but maybe it is new for you. I like today's technology. Besides, for some of us older people who worked for the government, the biggest breach of security and personal information did not happen on social media - it happened when the OPM database was breached in 2015 for over 21.5 million information used to get security clearances going back a couple of decades well before social media reached critical mass. Facebook is a cakewalk compared to that breach. It is all relative I guess.

  18. @Question Everything, Kids want fancy phones mostly due to peer pressure. They ask for a phone all the time, but suddenly find no need for a phone if you give them a flip phone. There are times they need to make a phone call. It would nice if schools keep a payphone booth.

  19. Well, for most of mankind's history, there was no privacy. You lived in a village, and everyone knew everything about you. Everything. Even in Brooklyn at the turn of the last century, you lived on a block and everyone knew everything about you. The neighbors saw who came and went and what they did. Even in my childhood, the grocer, the butcher, and everyone on the block knew everyone and pretty much all there was to know. One morning walking to school, my friend Jacky was mightily impressed when a milk-delivery truck drew up to us and slowed, and a woman leaned out the door and shouted at me, "Put on your sweater!" Jacky said, "Wow, your mom has spies everywhere." Privacy is a relatively modern concept resulting from the anonymity of urban dwelling and from people watching TV instead of looking out the window. What you want secret you keep to yourself. Emails, selfies, texts, Facebook, whatever, just don't send it.

  20. @B. The thing is before in tight knit communities sure everyone knew pretty much everything there know. Nowadays that is still true, and a bunch of corporations know a whole lot more, and the corps that don't own it can buy it. Oh and that fine grained information can be used to influence what you think and how you feel in much more effective and targeted ways.

  21. Of course corporations know. But we can write comments here, and send innocuous emails (I would never text or email what I really think about most politicians), and purchase stuff online, and in the main not divulge anything more than we used to when we had individual department store credit cards or paid for things mostly by check (and the banks knew where you shopped and what you bought). My point is that privacy has always been a rare commodity, and that nowadays young people particularly give over more information than they need to. And that an aging cousin bought an Alexa and tells "her" to turn on a lamp that's only steps away seems, to me, wasteful and absurd. If people can't imagine that a microphone, or a camera, is a two-way street . . . . (For the record, I have Arlo security cameras around the outside of my house -- never inside my house. And the mikes are turned off anyway.)

  22. @B. Respectfully, but there is a vast difference between you neighbors knowing your lifestyle and corporations having access to your private conversations. Privacy laws really came into effect not because of our new found introversion, but because of the telephone. People never thought of the operator or the phone company in general when the made calls, the government tried to listen in through the operator of the company, and courts suddenly had to deal with what to do when a person has a conversation that inherently goes through a third party. For a cute example of how this became a problem, think of the housekeeper from "White Christmas." That has been exemplified by a million in the era of text messages and social media. Your messages are stored in perpetuity by whatever transmission source you use. It is... well, it's not the end of the world, but it certainly needs to be discussed, or my children will grow up in a world where 1984-style monitoring is acceptable.

  23. McNealy's comments illuminate the bitter irony that libertarian ideology is, in the end, fundamentaly incompatible with any meaningful notion of universal human freedom. It isn't just governments who can shape and limit your effective choices against your will. There never was such a thing as perfect freedom, but at least I voted for my public officials, participated in my community, and contributed my bit to its local social norms. Who elected Google? The market? Who gave *them* that job?

  24. I also disagree with mr McNealy. I welcome regulation of info, just as I welcome the driving regulations of the road or building codes. One only needs to look at the White House to see some folks can’t figure out right from wrong. Add to that list Mr Zuckerberg and his side-kick ms Sandburg, who seems to think FB’s problems are merely public relations problems.

  25. Libertarians are the political equivalents of Revolutionary War re-enactors.

  26. I wish Ms Swisher had given at least one example of how she things this can work. Here is a situation. A few weeks after I started going to a place of worship every Sunday morning, I noticed a popup on my smartphone. That Sunday morning my phone told me that I would get there in 20 minutes. It was creepy to realize that my phone knew that because it was Sunday I would be going to a place different from my place of work. Note that I had done nothing different except use the Google Maps app. Another situation - I visited a restaurant after a long time. Google told me exactly when I had gone there last. Creepy. I can see how Google knowing where I am ever moment of the day is an invasion of privacy. However, I am not able to figure out exactly what we as citizens can ask our government to require Google to do in these scenarios. One thought is that such information should be saved locally in the phone's data bank and should not be uploaded to the cloud. Another is that we as consumers should be able to purge the data - and all copies of it - from the cloud. And, be able to verify that the data has indeed been purged. Ms. Swisher - are these the types of things you have in mind? What are some others?

  27. @na It's the cellphone, na. You can live without it.

  28. Privacy is a Human Right. It was recognized as such by the UN General Assembly Resolution 217 A in 1948. The United States voted in favor of the resolution. The problem we have since then is that we have decided this right can be traded away with ‘consent.’ In theory, this consent is informed. But in the modern age nobody really understands what they’re consenting to, even if they are asked to click the “I agree” button. In Europe, GDPR attempts to solve this by putting the explanation of the consequences into plain language. But there’s a power imbalance even with GDPR - the onus is on you to be informed, to make choices, to op-out. The model assumes it’s your fault if you don’t pay attention. We don’t follow this model of blaming the victim when we regulate of food, or health, or aviation. We have regulation for safe management of the tools and systems that provide medicines and food and airplanes. Given what we now know about the consequences of unsafe use of data - harassment, crime, hacking infrastructure, influence of elections - its time we placed a threshold on the minimum acceptable uses of personal data. One that can’t be traded to third-parties with ‘consent.’

  29. I agree with those who say there should be a requirement that all data collection of a personal nature is done so only with our knowledge and permission. I opt in or else there is no collection of data. And I would change our laws making the stalking of celebrities on the streets illegal. While it would be fine to take a crowd photo, if one chases someone down the street to get a picture of them or their family, that would be an illegal invasion of privacy. The NYTimes articles showing what China is doing are frightening. At a minimum, let me charge for my data, since those who collect it are making money on that same data. Hugh

  30. this article is fundamentally flawed. the "discussion" on digital privacy never took place. we didn't consciously choose to cede this territory. we were just swept up in the wave of new technologies (.com bubble, smart phones, apps, etc) and trusted that the companies behind this technological growth were trustworthy. they aren't. and as much as I hate to say it, it seems abundantly clear to me that we need to regulate technology companies to build meaningful privacy options into their products. if you don't want them, leave them off. but the rest of us shouldn't have to suffer.

  31. @dj - In defense of those companies and indeed of all of us - we didn't know! Did anyone, even Steve Jobs, every imagine a tightly integrated data-driven lifestyle brought to us by the .com, smart phones, apps, etc that you mentioned? No! Even now we do not fully comprehend the scale of disruption. And many of us think that disruption is also benign. Like Mr McNealy, many of us think there is more good to it and we have enough laws to counter the negative effects. The truly golden bits of private data remain things like social security number, data of birth, address, and the combination of those things that can jeopardize your identity. Those should remain locked, and do remain locked for the most part.

  32. @dj This is the discussion. Better late than too late, and as with the environment it may not be too late if we start paying attention to and participating in this discussion now. Who regulates things? Government. And it has to get "bigger," as they say, to do this, because as they are comprised now they don't have the skills or the manpower. So find out from your state and federal representatives what their plan is to regulate data mining and data sharing and tracking and such, and to change the defaults for all of this from opt-in to opt-out. Ask them what approach they favor and why it's better than other approaches being discussed. Ask them what department in government will do this and if they plan on increasing the budget to address this in a timely and efficient manner. Tell them that companies that make money by selling your data to third parties should have a special tax on the transactions that goes toward this regulation, and should be fined for doing so without your consent.

  33. " .. And maybe we put in place some rules — rules that have real teeth — on big tech companies .." Oh, please, stop. More than 45% of Americans are *not* on FB. They had the common sense to ask, "why bother?" The solution is that simple. Really. It is called "the power of the market." Don't like AMZN? Stop buying their intermediated cheap stuff from China. And "over-sharing?" Of course -- it beats working and facing serious issues. Just turn on the TV ..

  34. Are we sure the problem is that we just don't have enough stifling, politically correct, boredom in our lives? Social media is tremendously popular and very profitable. One reason is that people like having a place where they can discuss things that are important to them without some tiresome scold erasing their opinions and canceling their concerns in the name of "sensitivity." If you want a soft safe playpen app, there are plenty of platforms that provide it. Leave the real thing for the rest of us.

  35. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak warned several years ago about the dangers of all of our data being in the cloud. He made the case there’s virtue to having an isolated computer not connected to the web. He was and is correct.

  36. @Once From Rome Should every home have a Virtual Private Network if privacy is desired? I wouldn't know where to go buy such a thing.

  37. @Once From Rome Oh brother. It's like saying we were safer when we rode horses, doctors didn't actually cut people open, or sent telegrams.

  38. Easy to get digital privacy but won’t happen. The masses want laws passed and assurances never happen Everyone just stop Using social media, pay bills by mail , use cash and go to brick and mortar stores for a start. Changes in our behavior will bring about greater privacy. Never happen

  39. A.I. depends on big data. Big data is most valuable when it includes all sources. Sadly, the groups/countries with access to the most data will likley lead the world in A.I. - the new space race.

  40. If our telecommunications agencies won't do anything about the spam, robocalls and entities like Equifax can't / won't prevent hacking, it will be a very long time before our "Consumer Privacy Act" will be enforced and improved upon, or just keep up with the current times. Consumers are not given a choice regarding our own credit reports and yet left exposed to the hacking, left to defend for themselves when our data is stolen. Our government agencies are outdated as is our need to have government agencies comply quickly to the issues. Even our politicians are ignorant of the current technology but sit in hearings and reveal their total lack of understanding.

  41. There are those who follow the law and those who don't. The Chinese security state won't follow our laws and ask permission to include us in databases. Putin may well already know our voting preferences. Our own security state mushroomed after 9/11, and its agents are actually following the law when they capture our data. Security cameras are spreading like measles in an unvaccinated community, and the NYPD is testing facial recognition software in NYC traffic-- and they have access to our images or other date every time we use an ATM or a subway turnstile. Where will it end? Will I start getting more glowing accounts from cemeteries as I pass a birthday? Will I care? I'm glad Kara Swisher cares and hope she can help to clean up our world of annoying busybodies.

  42. An answer to protecting privacy starts with requiring people to opt-in to surveillance as the default rather than opt-out or no choice as it is today. The public needs to be given back the ability to control their lives. I believe we already have this right in our Constitution, the 4th Amendment and its interpretation should be reviewed and enforced through the courts. Amendment IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  43. The Fourth Amendment applies only to searches and seizures conducted by the *government* -- the problem here is that we have ceded control over our privacy to for-profit, and largely unregulated, industries.

  44. @jenn I know that is how it has been traditionally applied. I also know these Amendments are subject to interpretation by the courts and have been, including restrictions such as not permitting yelling fire in a movie theatre as a limit on the First Amendment. I'm suggesting, after reading it carefully, the Fourth Amendment can be interpreted differently. Our privacy is being compromised by unreasonable search and seizure of our private information. There is no probable cause in place to gather this data.

  45. It seems to me that the first logical step is to follow HIPAA's lead. Healthcare has established rules in Data sharing that, although specific to Healthcare Information, could be used as a foundation for other verticals. It may not be perfect but it does provide "tangible" rules to build upon.

  46. When powerful, rich companies and their lobbyists contribute to political campaigns (aka "legal" bribery), it's hard to believe that the current crop of politicians would side with the public.

  47. We need to innovate our way out of this. There is a huge demand for privacy that a savvy entrepreneur can exploit. Who will be the first to build the digital tools that give control of my data back to me? Allow me to be paid for the information I generate? Or, allow me to actively choose to give it away in exchange for a service? And - all the while, accounting for all my bits and bites? Government has a role here for sure - by it is not the ultimate solution.

  48. A federal privacy law is a SAFETY law. Did our national safety belt law hinder innovation in cars? Of course not.

  49. While I share the author’s privacy concerns, I am very skeptical about legislation. Much of the tremendous dynamism in the technology industry, from which we all have benefited, has come from the ability to collect and use data. Many people are quite happy to make that trade-off; many are not. The problem with legislation is that it tends to be one-size-fits-all and will likely stifle innovation. The best solution is for each individual to use his judgment to determine what is personally acceptable.

  50. Let's all take a moment to appreciate the irony of Ms. Swisher's position. She's covered the rise of the companies responsible for the problem for over two decades, and it appears she's just now preaching legislation to help us take control of our data. Happy to see contrary evidence, but this made me laugh a sad little chuckle as I watch ad for my things my partner bought weeks ago show up on the Times, my mobile devices, and everywhere else.

  51. I'm trying to opt out of intrusive technology as much as possible. That's hard to do when even your kitchen appliances are "smart" and possibly reporting on your failure to cook and your snacking to companies who claim they only look at your data in aggregate. But there's a point where the personal cost of using technology becomes higher than the convenience. That point is different for different people, but there should be baseline standards that the vast majority of people agree are too privacy-intrusive. Technology isn't the only privacy-invader. The "financial services" industry, including the big 3 credit bureaus, has invaded your privacy for decades, crunching and selling your data in lots of inscrutable ways to people who want to lend you money or sell you something. They make it really hard to "freeze" your credit and you only get one free copy of your credit report each year. The deck is heavily stacked in favor of companies whose "services" involve helping themselves to as much of your hard-earned money as they can possibly skim off in fees and interest rates. Any privacy regulations should also address this industry.

  52. How about if the law uses AI against the AI-ers. The field of Artificial Intelligence uses generic algorithms to improve itself. Simply put, these algorithms learn by themselves the same way as genetics works: survival of the fittest. Random changes are given a trial, the ones that result in improvement become part of our DNA, the ones that don't are discarded. Darwin taught us that. So suppose the law institution starting passing individual "little" laws against data gathering companies, e.g. maybe one that says "it is illegal to track toilet paper purchases" and many other similar laws. Some would be effective towards curbing abusive data tracking and some not, some would be enforceable and some not. Monitoring the results would yield which are the most effective laws. It's AI. We don't have to gather our legal minds together to study the problem for 20 years and to come up with the great data protection law in the sky; use AI, pass many little laws, and let the generic algorithms select the fittest of those.

  53. Its not that Amazon, for example, has compiled vast amounts of information about me and my buying habits—it’s about what they are doing with it outside of predicting my reading preferences. Do they sell that information to other entities? Do they leverage that information with their suppliers for better prices that increase their profits without passing along those cost savings to me? As for FB and GOOG, isn’t selling that info to advertisers and then putting those ads in front of our every screen view their sole raison d’etre? Why not tax them a $10 a year rental fee for every customer on whom they have personal information?

  54. @John C Why not charge each entity which wants her/his data pay the person whose data is being used $10/month?

  55. @John C Speak for yourself. My data is worth more than that. I want an opt-out.

  56. Why don't people who worry about privacy on social media platforms simply stay off the platforms?

  57. @William Case They do but you never hear about them. They don’t complain because they have control of there lives.

  58. @Tony Kara Swisher doesn't stay off social media platforms.

  59. @William Case--------------Yay! Thank you, William; I see I'm not the only one. I do what you suggest, but many people think that I must have a character wound. They assume that I must be damaged and, kindly, they refer me to psychologists. I stand my ground, though.

  60. The future of human privacy, freedom, in the world? It appears the human race with its technology, particularly computers, internet, surveillance technology, is on course to undergo a process roughly analogous to the biological creation of the human eye and other senses and of course brain to interpret incoming information. As we speak the most advanced sectors of especially the most advanced economies around the world presume themselves to be the future brain and are forming by technology eye and ear and no doubt in future sense of smell, taste and touch systems all throughout society and the purpose of millions of people, whatever else they do, is to increase this process and access to the heights of the system, the brain, will be on a need to know basis, meaning for millions not only freedom, privacy, and self-determination will be lost, they will have no future in probably the saddest understanding of the concept: They will be known and plotted on pre-planned course their whole lives, much like a muscle in the eye has no function other than to serve the eye and can be replaced if not functioning correctly for whatever reason. In this future world a person such as myself will no doubt be what in fact I am today: A splinter in the eye, a problem, someone unwilling to be anything less than at the forefront of society, with the total view, but who for a number of reasons is deemed unsuited by the powers that be for such, and therefore to be eliminated without a tear.

  61. I am no longer surprised, but am always a bit taken aback, by the hypocrisy that runs rampant among the rich and powerful. Last time at Davos, for example, the mega-wealthy agreed that income inequality threatened the very fabric of the United States, but were shocked, shocked, I tell you, at the thought that they might have to pay higher taxes to alleviate it. That would be bad, they said, very bad. Not only that, one of them said, but show me one country where higher taxes on the wealthy and on corporations has ever been successful. Answer - the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Regarding privacy, I note that Mr. McNealy is all for it, but doesn't want laws to enforce it. I have a flip phone, order stuff on Amazon, and talk on two or three comment threads. Beyond that, no social media, no Alexa, no smart devices in my house. I never had them, so I don't miss them. I don't have as much privacy as I did when I was young, but I treasure what little I have.

  62. @Vesuviano Alexa is not welcome in our house, either! And we use only "stupid" devices. "Social media" is limited to the NYT comments and some Twitter. We do order essential stuff from Amazon, but we also try to buy some stuff secondhand to lessen our carbon footprint and for nostalgia's sake. We also use cash at the grocery store so that our chocolate consumption cannot be tracked.

  63. McNealy is a billionaire so perhaps he is able to get along nicely without Google or Amazon. Not so much for the great unwashed masses. The tech giants need to be regulated or broken up or both. Exploiting dominant market power while playing fast and loose with people's data is a toxic combination.

  64. Maybe we should start with a different question. Why is privacy important? The surveillance in China is so ominous because behind every digital algorithm stands the good old-fashioned state’s monopoly on violence. If I say something the government doesn’t like, the police will show up on my doorstep. But what if Amazon knows exactly what brand of shoes I like? They have no power to compel me to buy their product. Nobody is going to throw me into a concentration camp because I waste my time watching cat videos. My data are for sale? Good luck finding a buyer. Unless somebody steals my identity or empties out my bank account - and we have laws against this already - what difference does it make that individuals and corporations know things about me? The value of privacy is overestimated. Do you really want to live your life in a dark corner, unknown and unseen? The problem with surveillance arises only in the context of a totalitarian government that can use spying to punish dissidents or enforce political conformity. Otherwise, get over it. I already have.

  65. @Mor. Why do you think only governnents can use ill-gotten information against you? Maybe you won't be jailed, but you might lose job opportunities, loans, whatever. Private entities often have more power than government in hyper-capitalist America.

  66. @Harvey Wachtel The only real power is violence. Only the government has this power (unless you happen to live in a failed state like Somalia). So I’ll lose a job opportunity because somebody knows what I post on Twitter? Too bad but I can find another job. I won’t get a loan from bank A? Bank B will be happy to oblige. Private entities, as you call them, cannot deprive me of my freedom or kill me. I’d trust Apple or Amazon before I trust the state apparatus, especially if it is ideologically motivated. It seems that the issue of privacy has become simply another way to badmouth capitalism. Ironically, since it is the socialist or quasi-socialist states that have made the worst use of data-collection.

  67. With all of that said, It misses the point that we are the one's that mistake the vast majority on social media for community. It is not. It is artificial sharing of possibly trivial and untrue information that will last long after we are dead. It is time to wake up to the fact that the #1 need of human beings is belonging. I think Maslow meant meaningful, real belonging. The fact that people have 200 likes of a post is really meaningless, because readers have no ability to determine if it is reality. Belonging and community is the real interaction with real people. that is where the interchange of growth, love, work, help and support really is. Let's put our phone's in our pockets on sleep and find out who the real people and groups are in our surrounding environments. It is time to return to physical humanity.

  68. Just as changing climate is a force multiplier impacting every sector of our economy so too is unlimited data and it’s use a multiplier in the collapse of our systems of checks and balances. Why do we close our eyes to our own destruction and right for self determination. Is it because we live in a world where profit always “trumps” productivity for the good of the whole?

  69. Have always believed my basic details are owned by me, and I'd like to take them back now, please.

  70. "We’ve given up too much control over our digital lives." Madam, speak for yourself. Anyone who uses a computer to go online is in full control of what links he / she clicks on, what he / she uploads, or types onto the keyboard. One would have to be utterly foolish to click on Facebook advertisements or anything else that is designed for mass appeal. Its like saying big pharma is responsible for the opioid crisis. In my opinion, human beings are in full control of what they put into their mouths and ingest.

  71. @Frank J Haydn You are delusional if you think you have full control over anything. At best, you are led to believe you choose from among the options advertisers, manufacturers, doctors, drug companies, stores, schools, churches, and every other broker in our economic and cultural life have pre-selected for you. And you do so without full knowledge, or often any knowledge, of the pros and cons. To take your specific example, drug companies giving incentives to doctors to prescribe opioids, consumer focused campaigns about the right to "full" pain relief, prescriptions with no information about a drug's addictive potential, poverty that fuels street sale of drugs for a quick high, lax health insurance oversight and regulations that permit reimbursement for excessive prescriptions, the greed of drug manufacturers, and myriad other factors seriously compromise a sick person's "full control." Same goes for computer access. It comes with a whole lot of mandates and pre-selected "choices." It is specifically designed to give users the illusion of control with no actual agency or power at all.

  72. Oh yes, I remember the privacy law the Europeans passed last year. Immediately following, I was swamped with email from every entity I have ever engaged with online articulating the changes to "their" privacy policy and I had to "click here" to accept or, heaven forbid, not accept, and be forever barred from doing business with them. In other words, in order to do anything online we all had to "agree" to allow these entities to circumvent the law the Europeans had just passed so they could continue abusing our data while they will claim we have read and understood their revised policies. Nobody has time to read the "terms of service" online entities demand that we agree to, and what's the point anyway, because you have no power to negotiate them. It's "take it or leave it". I say "leave it."

  73. Is the information accurate? We have no editing capability. An online search may be about a friend, business effort, or another person using your interface. It may be a misinterpretation by a algorithm. Is the information collected mistranslated in another language? How do I edit or change data held by a third party? Why if my identity has been stolen, partially or fully? What if the source of the data, say medical information was a typo? There is no single, direct and basic means to view, correct or block changes to collected data, and this will proliferate with the volume of data collected over time.

  74. "Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy ... said that there are still enough alternatives to allow consumers to escape being hostages of Google or Facebook or Amazon, and that if people are concerned about those companies' data collection, they are free to stop using their platforms." How many people posting comments on this article appreciate the fact that the New York Times, like countless other sites across the internet, required them to use Google's reCAPTCHA service in order to authenticate themselves? Or that reCAPTCHA requires the user to agree to an opaque series of cascading adhesion contracts designed to be unintelligible? Or that the reCAPTCHA process enables Google to uniquely identify an individual posting a comment through a technology called browser fingerprinting? In quoting Mr. McNealy, is Ms. Swisher suggesting that if we don't trust Google we should stop visiting sites like this one? This isn't a trivial question. Indeed, it extends well beyond our engagement with the internet. As Emily Bell wrote in a recent piece at the Guardian: "Google is upping its presence in a less obvious manner via assorted media initiatives on both sides of the Atlantic. Its more direct approach to funding journalism seems to have the desired effect of making all media organisations (and indeed many academic institutions) touched by its money slightly less questioning and critical of its motives." Free choice, for most of us, simply isn't a realistic option anymore.

  75. Gun rights advocates should be more concerned with Government infringing on their individual rights and personal freedoms by misusing tech than by legislating any sensible gun safety laws. But then again, you can’t shoot a bad guy with with an iPhone. Yet.

  76. We will continue to take it. And happily pay for it.

  77. When the quality of American life is controlled, monitored, censored, exploited, and suppressed by corporations rather than served and supported by its government, ‘democracy dies in broad daylight.’ People over Property!

  78. Hey, blame this on Ben Laden and the Patriot Act. Safety comes at the loss of privacy...I bet everyone feels safer when they catch a murderer in less than a day because there are cameras everywhere. We chose to have cameras everywhere and we want to be connected. The citizens of Arizona didn't want cameras on the highways and demanded that they be removed. And so it was. Yes, get over it.

  79. Building consensus around such legislation is a tough slog. The average member of the public, aided and abetted by dark web social degenerates and other vermin, display runaway exhibitionistic tendencies, and a gargantuan appetite for gossip and personal intrusion across all of cyberspace. But there could be light at the end of this tunnel. Notice Mark Zuckerberg's recent snail's pace evolution. He famously lectured us that privacy was an antiquated concept from a bygone era, at Facebook's conception. Then, about eight years ago, he promised to improve privacy and buttress in-house rules and regulations for Facebook's use. Today, he is comfortably curled in a fetal position and making unsolicited declarations that Facebook needs better regulations and privacy enforcement, from elsewhere. It must be tough being him, the all knowing social media saturation guru, now forced to acknowledge that he is clueless on this subject and cannot effectively govern his own creation. He can help this cause now, by voluntarily stepping aside to make way for wiser leadership that can.

  80. "Just machines to make big decisions, programmed by fellows with compassion and vision..." Donald Fagen, IGY We have put ourselves, most unwittingly, at their mercy, so we have to hope for those fellows of compassion and vision. Or, we can just put the gun down. Somehow, I doubt many will choose to do the latter.

  81. People don't care because there is nothing so terrible about seeing ads that are more relevant instead of seeing ads that are less relevant.

  82. "GROK !" i love it from one of the most important books of my life Stranger in a strange land Robert Heinlein

  83. Don't be a wuss on this issue, we need to take ALL of the control of our data back. 'Opt out' should be illegal, the only mode should be 'Opt in', and that means explicit 'opt in' for every type of data. The digital relationship can and should be the same as the non-digital relationships. The current abuses by Google, Facebook, etc. are criminal invasions of privacy and socially extremely dangerous, and they do it solely to make a buck selling your data.

  84. The consumer choice to which Mr. McNealy refers, is not limited to choosing among existing options presented by tech companies. Consumers can use our power to demand corporations attend to these concerns and create the kind of digital rights and respect we need.

  85. About a month ago I was searching for facts about CBD oil. I used the internet. I never offered my email address. Within days, my inbox was filled with emails soliciting for CBD, plus weight loss, hair growth, keto diets, flat belly, cognitive decline, and ... lovely Russian women. I never open them and I've been designating them as spam but they keep on coming. There oughta be a law.

  86. @Gluscabi I think you just need to adjust your computer's privacy settings....

  87. Very amusing that the NYT is devoting so much space to privacy at the same time posts an article on how great it is to use Google Photos. By advocating the use of Goggle Photos, which uses and analyzes all your data, NYT is not really interested in the privacy issue despite the large number of editorials.

  88. I’m a fan of yours, Kara, so I say this with respect... but the iPhone was released in June 2007 (“my deeply felt relationship with that iPhone that spans decades now”); “spans” gets you off on a technicality, but that’s an unnecessary stretch, because you’re writing about how fast these privacy challenges have arisen. And, honestly, using “grok” without reference in the NYT is really over-reaching for Millennial readers, don’t you think?

  89. Taxpayers should have the right to know who is collecting data on them. They deserve the right to know who is selling it and who is buying it. Most of the major tech companies have become giant vacuums of your personal data. Their business models have become much more about selling personal data than anyone could have imagined. What is someone has a serious illness...say Parkinsons. They are probably going to go to the internet to learn all they can about the disease and possible treatment plans. Before they tell their children certain tech companies are tracking them and collecting their data. The tech company could sell this data to the highest bidder...say health insurers. If they are precluded by HIPPA from selling the data directly it doesn’t matter because unabated data is free flowing. It will find its way into the hands of those who could use it against us. This is where we are headed. Guardrails must be established and intelligent regulation must be put in place. Hopefully our lawmakers, many of whom probably still use dial up, would be assisted in this by digital and data natives.

  90. Blah, blah, blah... Like the NRA "anti-guv-ment" folks, the "Privacy Now!" folks don't seem to understand that each of us ALEADY has an enormous personal data base constructed for each of us that innumerable government and private agencies/businesses ALREADY have access to - and "they" aren't going to get rid of it/them/those EVER. The idea that "passing a law" is going to change things... Like that law regulating the tides - good luck with that. Unplug your devices, pick your path in life, and live as long as you can. It's been "game over" since at least the early 90s. Next time there's an election, pick someone who isn't a complete creep and hope that "decent" person doesn't allow you and yours to become Soylent Green in the next few years... It IS now an eat or be eaten world - at least until humans lose the ability to generate electricity for a century or two... Then "it" will just start over - people being what they are. Have a nice day.

  91. You lost me at "grok". Yes, I know what it means. Would it have been so hard to write "understand" or "realize"?

  92. People need to either grow up or accept the fact that people with no good intentions are spying on you and your family. If you don’t mind having your every movenment being recorded tracked keep doing everything on line . The negative facts have been on the record for years now ignore at your peril. The only online presence people should have is responding to articles and comments to the New York Times or any other legitimate newspaper. These newspaper have a reputation that is pro democracy and publishing the truth. The comments section allows you to voice and provide an educated opinion, they may use your thoughts to further write about the topic but they aren’t trying to pry into your life. So give away your life if you want to government regulations can’t protect you from yourself.

  93. forget technology spying on us. how about health insurance companies. they are datamining all of our old medical records, looking for key words to pin a diagnosis on us to get more $$$ from medicare. diagnoses that dont impact our day to day health. they look at your pharmacy, bills, medical records, everything. that is spying.

  94. I find this article bizarre. First, 40 years late. Many people and orgs, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation for the past 30, have been running around with their hair on fire about this and people continue to simply shrug and count their FB "friends." Second, it argues against itself -- need strict regulation, but not what the Europeans have because that is too strict; can't ask tech cos to police themselves but government shouldn't intrude; we should wean ourselves from our tech obsession but I, myself, can't live without my iphone; want rules but don't want to impede "innovation" (that is, better and faster intrusions into privacy). Finally, selling information about consumers is the business model for tech companies. That is what they DO. That is why they exist. You might as well tell auto manufacturers we would like to replace all roads with bike paths and hiking trails. If you want Amazon to deliver to your door, they have to know where you live and what you buy. If you want to post photos of your kids on FB, they will be subjected to facial recognition software. We have created, and love, the Big Brother that enslaves us.

  95. There is no such thing as privacy. Drive around any city/town and you will see cameras everywhere. Go into any building and there are cameras everywhere. Go to your doctors office where they are taking your medical history and have the ability to give that info to any doctor you visit. Give your DNA over to the likes of any genealogy testing and you are now in who knows how many databases. Use any bank and you have forfeited any rights to keeping that information from prying eyes. Get on any social media platform and you give up your right to privacy. Use your phone and get tracked by numerous entities that have taken/ purchased the rights to your whereabouts. Go to a hospital to have a baby and there are cameras recording the birth of your child surreptitiously without your consent. There is no such concept of privacy, they have the means and you are just a algorithm for companies to monetize. I suspect that you could escape society and try to live off the grid and someone, somewhere could pinpoint your exact location and hunt you down. We handed over, mostly unwittingly, our right to privacy when we bought into the lie that it was for our safety and national security. And people on FB? Don’t even get me started with the stupidity of people sharing everythingggggg on their platform. Facebook is the biggest scam of scamming social media, convincing people that they were the good guys just trying to facilitate family/friends relationships. Privacy, how quaint.

  96. "Deeply felt relationship with my Iphone." That sounds like addiction.

  97. @Anne Indeed. I predict that in about 500 years, babies will be born holding smartphones. And staring down at them.

  98. @Frank J Haydn Or, we will all be wiped out by brain cancers caused by our cell phones. Ha!

  99. As normal, I will use two of my strongest character traits -- ignorance and stupidity -- in the following remarks, which, despite all, have the virtue of candor and a simple man's way of life. (Perhaps too simple? Perhaps.) Life's too short to worry about every damned thing. The list of serious, moderate, and mild dangers to a person's life would be tediously long. Which ones should I dedicate much of my brief time here to fretting about? I couldn't agree even with myself on this matter, even if I tried. And the list would require constant rethinking and priority shifting. Just not doin' that. You are? And I'm a patented fool? When it comes down to it, aren't we all? I've made countless mistakes in life, some were beneficial, most were not; but I could have never foreseen which were which. Yes, in general, don't drive the wrong way down a one-way street, drink from a water pool that has a skull and crossbones sign posted, challenge a policeman to a death match, or vote Republican. But I'm not counting calories, praying five times daily, or rejecting the latest technology. It's kinda nice to know that someone is neurotic enough to want to know about my personal activities; it's about the only attention I get. Most people just ignore me. So, hello to all my watchers at Google, the government's Big Brother squad, and merchants all over the world. Stay in touch: I might do something unique any minute, say go to Walmart instead of Target for my bread machine wheat flour.

  100. @Jim Muncy - While I don't agree with your cavalier attitude about your personal privacy or your apparent belief that just because someone's not doing anything wrong they shouldn't worry about every single move they make being recorded, tracked, and exploited for profit, your post was still a delight to read and brought a smile to my face. Thank you!

  101. @Kristin I guess I'm too cavalier about many things, despite being a born-and-bred worry-wart. Anxiety has made my life a pretty massive failure. Even double the dose of Celexa can't prevent my anxiety attacks. So, consciously, I try not to worry much about anything, like my two young grandsons. What if they're kidnapped, shot, run over, catch a serious disease, drown, injured and crippled, etc.? Then there's my adult children and their spouses, and my extended family. Often it is best to leave it all to god or fate, hope for the best, and deal with the problem when it confronts you. Especially because our destinies seem written beforehand: karma? For example, the dedicated health nut gets run over by a beer truck while jogging; the overzealous security nut locks himself out of his house or car for the seventh time; the guy who fears rejection from the opposite sex, because of the pain, suffers with loneliness, which is even more painful. Such cosmic and comic ironies are endless. So in many things, we must leap before we look -- because we can't examine, for instance, every building's blueprints and completed safety inspections before entering, or every bridge we cross, or every bite of food we take, etc. The media makes a pretty good living by stirring up our fears. It's like shooting fish in a barrel: Life is loaded with dangers of all kinds and degrees. What we focus on makes all the difference in the quality of our lives, no? So I go with: What, me worry?

  102. @Jim Muncy I had to laugh at the inclusion of "vote Republican" in your list. It will be passed along to several friends. Thanks.

  103. Today I read an opinion piece in the New York Times by Kara Swisher and commented on that piece. The NYT took tracked my activity and “customized my experience” based on my actions. It rents my mailing address to “reputable third parties” so that they could bombard me with advertising. It shared my information with third party advertising services to provide custom selected ads on my browser. The NYT collected my browser information, IP address, and location and it transmits that information to third parties so that they can show me targeted advertising on OTHER SITES than the NYT. It puts cookies in my browser that allows advertisers on other sites to recognize and act on my news reading choices. You, Ms. Swisher are part of the problem. And more than a little hypocritical.

  104. @Tone - while it is true NYT does some of the tracking, others like WaPo (and who owns that?) and my local paper and weather people are FAR, FAR worse. first use a PC instead of that damn phone a your default device. I use script-blocking and have zero of my searches from elsewhere follow me anywhere. I block 7 of the 10 NYT scripts and it reads fine. since I'm paying $300/yr btw digital and paper, I absolutely have the right to do it. you can too. download a script blocker and learn to use it, ie which are req'd and which will have to be left like *.cdn's. and go to your browser turn on blocking there, empty your search history regularly and it'll cut down tracking by 80%. it'll take awhile to get used to but the track fewer-not-entirely experience is worth it.

  105. @Tone You've explained why the financial incentives all lead to more intrusive tracking -- and why laws are the only solution. Absent laws, you are asking every corporation (including public corporations required to serve shareholder interests) -- as well as every individual -- to leave money on the table while their competitors grab it. Is that likely or practical?

  106. @sam - Unfortunately blocking scripts will not prevent the NYT from harvesting your IP address or tracking you by your login credentials. It will not prevent the NYT from renting your mailing or email address to "reputable third parties", nor will script blocking prevent the NYT from loading you up with cookies that will be recognized by third party sites. Your login status is tracked by a session cookie, and without it the NYT will not recognize you as a paid-up subscriber. @Bill Camarda - One ethical approach would be for the NYT to offer higher priced digital subscriptions that do not track or share your information and habits with third parties or NYT advertisers. The premium subscription price would offset the revenue lost by not selling your info. If the response to this opinion piece is any indicator, there is significant demand for such a premium product.

  107. The die was cast back in the 90's, I believe it was. Rather than pass laws requiring a specific "opt in" statement from each individual before their data could be collected, our bought-out politicians allowed big data to get away with a toothless "opt out" law, whereby all data could be collected (even without the user's knowledge) unless/until such time as the individual filed a specific "opt out" statement with each and every firm collecting the data.

  108. I have penned thousands of comments to the NY Times, the Washington Post, and dozens of other publications because I want to be heard, I want to be criticized, and I want my narrative and thinking on the issues to improve over time. I use my full real name like perhaps 20 percent of the other digital commentators. I have difficulty understanding why 80% prefer the anonymity of pseudonyms, initials and first names. A few of the names are funny or politically descriptive but I presume all share the desire to separate their real identity from the real people that will read their words. For most, it seems that a desire to protect their identity extends beyond their bedrooms and bank accounts, because of discomfort with the unknown and fear that someone may want to cause harm in some way. It is also quite likely that many feel their identity, their life, their opinions are not important enough to willingly take the small risk of giving up some privacy. My current digital footprint includes the intersections and tolls where my car moves, the subways, trains and planes I take, the purchases I make, my emails, photos and personal papers stored in the cloud and countless other data. My smart phone is just another tool and less fun than my several kinds of Alexia’s I enjoy. I have faith that ingenious attorneys will sue private businesses that abuse my privacy and create a genuine risk of harm. I see no good reason for the government to interfere.

  109. @Eugene Patrick Devany - i love people who use their full legal names to propose that corporations won't hurt us -- and, if they do, a bit of legal tussle will straighten them out. my counterproposal is that you get your lawyer, and the corporations get their team of white shoe lawyers, and let's see who wins in court. i mean, the court of judges who used to be white shoe lawyers. "ingenious lawyers" bill by the hour and by document page generated by interns: if you can afford to go up against a corporation, good on you. me, i have to trust that law enforcement is subpoena restrained; if not, we're all doomed. but corporations? oh, beware, little red riding hood, the wolf in grandma's paid superbowl ad is eager to eat you.

  110. Do a product search on the internet and you are inundated with ads from companies selling that product. The internet service providers are obviously selling your search results and address to those companies. We should be able to enter a binding Do Not Track order.

  111. The dopamine surge has reprogrammed people's brain at this point. The corporations and advertisers are even crafting the call and response system implicit in social media to drive our behaviors with a greater level of precision.There's always something given away in the when someone becomes an addict. In this case people have given away their privacy to the influencers and the corporations and the intel establishment and potentially to hackers. People have given up the outrage and have accepted it for the temporary high of getting a like on their photo of last night's dinner plate. It's been fullyrationalized and normalized by popular culture despite wherever this thing might head. The digital horses have left the barn.

  112. It's true that we have control over much of what data we expose to the world. We don't have to do commercial DNA tests; we certainly don't have to do the daily mind and soul dump so popular on Twitter, Facebook et al. And the police and banks use cameras that help to protect us and our money, I'm all for it. But, I am convinced we as individuals ---and our data deserve protection from AI. constant mining of our innocent online activities and oversight on how, what and why the techs collect and analyze our personal data. They want total access to our every random thought and Google search because we are the coal and they are the big guys scrapping off the mountain tops to get to it and then sell it and us to the highest bidder. The E.U. is right in suggesting that our right to control our personal data is a right just as important as our right to clean air, safe cities and access to health care. I rarely use social media, but when every simple search I make ends up in somebody's marketing plan, I am mightily annoyed and want my government to stop it just as they stop old fashioned crooks from breaking into my house. And, Yes it can be done; we're getting shined on when they tell us they can't do it. Can't do it today? Then get on it and do it tomorrow,smarties.

  113. The ubiquitous spying on humanity through our ubiquitous technology is arguably the greatest threat to humanity, because it can be weaponized by hostile actors, whether by private companies, crime syndicates, nation states, hostile states, or individual hackers. The problem is the permanency of digital data. It just does not go away. So as long as mankind has enemies, our data can be stolen and exploited, to our peril. Companies like Google seek to aggregate ALL information (incredibly reassuring us with “Don’t be evil”) which ultimately gains them power approaching an omniscient God. But they now want to mate this Orwellian mining of our privacy with computerized “Artificial Intelligence” which aims to exploit that “Big Data” in ways that will surely lead humanity into deeper abuse, even wars, not “God.” Read the ancient story of the Tower of Babel to understand that man’s quest for supreme power apart from the true God and understand that such misguided projects flawed by our sinful reasoning will not turn out the way it is being sold today.

  114. There doesn’t seem to be much discussion about the benefits of data collection to small business. Without the ability to target advertisements to consumers on the internet who are interested in specific things, it will be harder for smaller businesses to advertise. Most likely the only ones able to afford ads will be big businesses who can successfully advertise to the general public.

  115. Perhaps you will despair slightly less about your, "relationship with that iPhone," when you are reminded that does not, in fact, span decades. The first one dropped in 2007/June. Hard to believe but true. Just twelve years ago. Which makes what you write all the more intensely meaningful.

  116. Taking items without permission is stealing. Confidential documents on paper or electronic, what difference does it make? Then using that digital footprint to create "my life's digital narrative" to others is wrong, on so many levels. It's not allowed in the non-digital world (am I allowed to say "real world") so shy should it be allowed in the digital world? And god forbid the narrative contains errors. People certainly shouldn't have to struggle to correct these lies and slanders created by anyone. Life is more than a digital footprint and a lawyer having your back. We are allowing the digital world to replace everything. Technology in the wrong hands is a dangerous thing, and we see this on a daily basis.

  117. I do not mean to quibble, but people living in small towns and in traditional societies had much less privacy than we do. Having no privacy was the normal state of affairs for most of human history, so we can used to it. Perhaps we should, if the benefits outweigh the problems. Perhaps this is not as big a problem as the author feels it is. When privacy began to erode, I expected I would be upset by it. I find I do not care much. Then again, I am not on Facebook or other social media, because they do not interest me. Still, anyone can find me or contact me. No one has done that in a way that bothers me. Based on what I have seen when banks, Amazon.com and other institutions show me their records, they do not know anything more about me than I would volunteer if they asked.

  118. In related news, the inhabitants of Messier 87 objected to our recent snooping and opted out of any further data sharing with us.

  119. Mightn’t another approach be for everyone to overwhelm the system with useless data. Instead of not participating and hiding from the technology, indiscriminately click on everything!

  120. We don't need new laws. We need people to act responsibly.

  121. @Bjh I see, we'll just bring responsibility to their attention, and they will fall in line? Laws exist precisely because people do not act responsibly. And they injure and take advantage of others in the process. Living together with the protection of a legal system is called a functional human society.

  122. Or you could just stop using social media. Any of it. All of it. Have as little of a digital life as humanly (GET IT?!?!?) possible. That might solve your problem more effectively than protesting an institution that by its very nature relies on intrusions into your privacy.

  123. Thank you, Kata Swisher, for sharing this.

  124. In many ways our value as human beings has been reduced to your impact on the web. Are you mentioned in Wikipedia? How many times are you mentioned on the web and how many hits do you get? Etc. It has become a world obsession. At one time your value as a human being was judged by how much you contributed to your society often behind the scenes or little acts of kindness. But sometimes it seems that the internet and media has change irrevocably how we look at ourselves and our value as human beings. Truly sad.

  125. Those of us who participate in the modern world can't move without leaving digital droppings, and unless there's a collapse of the cloud, they will never disappear. Google your name and there you are, in all your stupid glory, with the letter you wrote 15 years ago to a small college newspaper in a small town you were visiting just for the day. Check your bank records from 8 years ago, and there you are, withdrawing $400 from a cash machine at 10:08 a.m. on October 12 at Broadway and Canal. Look at your MTA records, and damn if you aren't swiping your card at 96th and Broadway at 5:04 in the afternoon on March 12, 2016. It's already an Orwellian world. Facial recognition schemes will simply be icing on the cake.

  126. These companies don’t care about your individual data. No individual user matters at all, so you don’t need to worry about your privacy with big tech when it works as intended. What you need to worry about is your privacy when it comes to data breaches. That’s when people who do care about what you’re doing can find out things you’d rather they not. We’d be better off if the government spent their time worried about data security.

  127. if you eat something toxic, you realize that fact as nausea. you vomit, you're now wary. in psychology, this "one trial learning" is called the "sauce-bearnaise syndrome" -- because once a bad sauce makes you vomit, that one experience will put off sauce forever. ms. Swisher is proposing that most people don't have a natural feeling of nausea with digital media, so the nausea should be legislated into their behavioral options. consider what is really happening here: human species engineering. you don't naturally get sick by eating too much unhealthy sugar, so we'll legislate your sugar intake instead. but -- we keep eating sugar. full agreement: digital media, in various ways, stimulates human impulses that have not evolved to resist the stimulus. it's too new for evolution, even for society and culture, to handle effectively. the deeper conclusion is that technology in the whole -- the entire infrastructure of cars, planes, fast food, digital media, telephony, banking, credit, health care, clothing, work, opinion formation, socialization -- is making us sick in ways that don't make us vomit. because hurling is a long adapted response in a fundamental alimentary process, and banking online is -- much too recent and novel. legislating "control" is not reducing control -- it's transferring control from technology to law. meanwhile, control is always species engineering. ask yourself, where is technological human engineering going -- for example, is it making you sick?

  128. "We have to figure this out now, because more privacy-threatening technologies — such as artificial intelligence, Close X, 5G, quantum computing, automation, robotics, self-driving cars and above all, facial recognition — are all part of the next wave of innovation." I would start by dropping the term "innovation". The privacy-threatening technologies is all about using whatever technologies to achieve private sector aims, aka profit. When I was growing up I never considered myself to be living in antiquity. Innovations came along at a gradual pace, and were accepted at a leisurely pace. But now we are being told that we are indeed living in antiquity. A world without facial recognition, quantum computing, self driving cars, 5G, etc. is simply unacceptable. We are being mass hypnotized to believe that the advance of civilization is dependent on the advance of digitization. For example, self-driving cars and trucks will be a massive change is in many aspects of transportation and industry, requiring trillions in investment, but who is begging for it? There is no "national conversation", even about the loss of millions of commercial and public sector driving jobs. Its digitization, stupid!!

  129. @sherm I recommend reading, The Technological Society, by Jacques Ellul. He addresses your concern that there is no conversation, gadgets and weapons of mass destruction "just happen" because we adapt without question to each new thing. (Ever been told in the workplace that this or that has to be done because that's how the computer program works?) It was written in the early 1950's .... still germane, and here we are, More of the same. It's still worth a read. A careful and thoughtful analysis of technique and technology. Excerpts from a variety of Ellul's texts: "Psycho-sociological techniques result in the modification of men in order to render them happily subordinate to their new environment, and by no means imply any kind of human domination over Technique.” "There is no relation between the proclamation of values (justice, freedom, etc.) and the orientation of technical development. Those who are concerned with values (theologians, philosophers, etc.) have no influence on the specialists of technique and cannot require, for example, that some aspect of current research or other means should be abandoned for the sake of some value.“ PS: his book, Propaganda ... is also relevant.

  130. To me, sharing implies offering someone something they want or need. People obsessed with being seen and read and heard on today's digital gee-gaws and do-dads are saying "look at me! look at me!" It seems sad and lonely. And a bit pathetic.

  131. Just wait until health insurance companies get their hands on your grocery bills and credit card receipts. They would love nothing better than to know which insureds eat too much sugar or have more drinks more often than the government says is "safe." The technology that is already in place could easily result in you being greeted with a "helpful" reminder at checkout that you've already had too many eggs this month. And what about those company wellness programs, which some companies even go so far as to make essentially mandatory by levying an extra charge for health insurance amongst those who refuse to participate? Already Orwellian, can you imagine how much control they could exert over an overweight employee if they could receive information from "smart" home exercise equipment and monitor your activities to make sure that you're getting in the exercise they've decided is necessary? We have already seen massive assaults on our freedom and privacy at the hands of technology, but it's NOTHING compared to what's coming if we don't stop eagerly welcoming into our lives the tools of our own downfall. Just like you don't need to pay for groceries with anything but cash, just like you don't need a Facebook or Twitter or Instagram account, you do not need "smart" appliances. You don't need an Alexa. Even if we've gone too far to let our phones only be phones, we can minimize their usage. We still have a choice, but that's not going to be true much longer.

  132. @Kristin Hear, hear Kristin! I've been worried about health insurance and company wellness programs for years. So many people voluntarily surrender their data for so little in return now but I rue the day when it will be become mandatory.

  133. @Kljgray My insurer is already slowly turning the "wellness program" into a scolding, warning program. It the past 30 days, I've gotten 2 mailers and 3 phone calls about the gym discount. The first caller wanted to "inform" about the wonderful program & what it could do for me. I politely declines since I can read and it was fully explained in the literature I already had. The second caller began the conversation by noting that I'd not taken advantage of the "generous" program to safeguard my health and well-being and demanded I give her 3 good reasons why. I hung up. The third caller apologized that the second call had obviously been disconnected in error and wanted to make sure that I was aware of the long term health consequences of unhealthy life choices. I hung up again. Of all the data collection entities I worry about, health insurers are at the top, and when I read that Amazon is looking to get into the mix, it makes me want to go back to stone tablets.

  134. Thanks for the reminder . . paying for groceries with cash! I forgot about the days when you forgot to go to the bank on Friday and had no money for the weekend. No ATM to bail you out. No credit cards. Yeah, that was privacy bliss.

  135. Dropping out seems the only viable alternative, yet, somewhat unlike dropping out in the ‘60s, the resources for maintaining privacy are declining. A new Whole Earth Catalog doesn’t seem to be in the offing—even the old versions seem dated in a digital age. All indications are that we’re dealing with a new form of totalitarianism, developing under the guise of “the economy.” The old Soviet Union will pale by comparison. The new totalitarianism will have “a human face”—no need for all that torture and physical oppression the Soviets used. China, of course, is showing the way.

  136. An idealistic and aspirational column for sure. Practically, however, we need a American government that answers to voters and not to the special interests with lots of money to spend. As long as political campaigns are funded by big money, the only new laws related to privacy will be ones that create profits and fund campaigns. Can it be done? Yes. Just look at the lawsuits against tech industries IN EUROPE!

  137. @dpaqcluck I'm surprised we haven't seen similar lawsuits here, though I suppose there are many hurdles we put in place. Tell people this is one of the policies you're concerned about and ask them to develop solutions to discuss in the coming election season.

  138. We do share far too much. Show And Tell has become a national pastime. I was just as guilty as the next person for this impulse. Fortunately, I quit using Facebook, and never got an Instagram or Twitter account. On Facebook I shared all kinds of photos and thoughts. While I thought I was being somewhat prudent, what I was doing was simply comparing my own Show and Tell desires with others who really went full-tilt-boogy with sharing every emotional up and down, every dog photo, every daily accomplishment like it was a major news story. Once I quit Facebook, however, I realized the real value of pulling back. Since I'd turned my back on my "audience" (aka Facebook Friends) things slowed down. If I wanted to tell or share something with a specific person, I'd just write (or even more shocking) call them. I learned to say "no". Now, I know data is out there. I'm not under any illusions that turning off social media puts the problem back in the box. However, it's a start. I have coffee with others in the morning - I mean really sit down and talk in person. I meet with friends once a week in a cafe. I've learned the value of silence with a book. I watch people walking around staring at screens and shake my head. Am I a snob? Probably, but I don't care. At least I've got a sense of what it is like in the weather as opposed to some device strapped to my wrist to tell me how well I slept. I'll take being a human any day over being a cyborg.

  139. @Michael Kennedy A thoughtful and well-written comment, Michael. Ironic that my first impulse (which I resisted) was to share a link to it on Facebook.

  140. My new car does not have GPS nor do I link it to the internet. I do not own a cellphone, never had, nor will I ever have, a social media account such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Lately I have been thinking about buying a hijab along with a face vail so when I walk into a store they will not identify me with facial recognition! Most of the time I pay cash for everyday purchases. My emails are non personal and I use several privacy blockers on my computer along with a search engine that does not keep records of my queries. I do not understand the desire to share one's life with strangers, corporations or the government. I have frozen all the major credit reporting agency accounts to minimize the chance of credit fraud. There are days when I consider living off the grid, unfortunately I enjoy my creature comforts ( such as air conditioning) too much.

  141. The obvious solution is to reinvent the United States Postal Service as a "killer app" that replaces Facebook, Twitter, Google, eBay, Amazon and all the file storage and "gig economy" sites with a clean, transparent, public communications platform supported by taxes and revenues from high-volume users. The Post Office is in our Constitution for a reason. It would be expensive to modernize it, but it will ultimately cost us more to leave our communications in the hands of bad actors.

  142. Thank you to Kara Swisher for this well-needed article, and the Times for this new series, The Privacy Project. This is the first of the related articles I've read (I've read several here over the years) and I look forward to reading the rest. This is one of the most important issues of our time; we need to come together to resolve this regulation before AI, 5G, quantum computing, robotics and facial recognition get ahold of it all. Being the most data-generating and data-chomped makes us the most vulnerable to exploitation. That's something many don't really seem to get their heads around. Why do people think advertising and push-polling are such mammoth and successful industries if people aren't susceptible? As with every Constitutional right we must establish a new set of responsibilities for our age. I find McNealy's comments out of touch. We all use toilet paper. What about the people who buy, say, adult diapers? The comment about hindering innovation of smaller companies made me wonder if that's not why Mark Zuckerberg's said on more than one occasion he welcomes government regulation. Still, we don't have regulation now, yet what small companies have recently grown to seriously compete with Google or Facebook that would not have done so otherwise? That's not rhetorical, I know alternatives to Google (behemoth Microsoft's Bing, for one) but what are all these alternatives to Facebook? Most Facebook hostages I hear from don't seem to recognize any as truly viable.

  143. Just start small: legislate that products be usable without access to your GPS data. On top of the plethora of apps that demand to know where you are, the internet of things is becoming more pushy as well. Example: I purchased a smart plug last year for our Xmas lights, and the thing wanted me to give it access to my location! It was comical. I assumed it would be like a switch you control from your phone, not a blatantly obvious data mining tool. And yes, that got returned.

  144. I can't understand why people care about data being used for marketing purposes. We all have agency and are far from powerless to resist even the most targeted advertisements. Also targeted advertisements are a small price to pay for the free service we enjoy in the form of social media. Any law should address the issue of third parties obtaining access to private information that can be used to harm (location, financial information etc) and also the use of information to spread targeted propaganda. (The latter being more difficult to enact given the first amendment). But social media companies should be otherwise free to market to us however they want.

  145. @Timothy Pearse. I was recently on the internet looking into tours to France. My email was deluged with advertisements for tours. Worse yet my phone message machine filled up with calls from the tour companies. I’m sorry, but calling my home constently is an invasion of my privacy and peace of mind. I don’t even know how they got my phone number.

  146. " — and I think it’s pretty inevitable we’ll get one (a law) in the next few years." First KS describes a critical need, then slams the EU solution, that being effective laws. It will be a real knee-slapper to see what our system produces at the end of the process! (Laugh emoji here!) Without a doubt it will further the power of the tech giants. They are the ones in charge, not congress for gosh sake. And regarding AI, there have are now several books screaming out the warnings. As far back as the mid-twentieth century Isaac Asimov saw the danger and produced a short list of constraints or commands to be incorporated in every intelligent robot. These seem quaint today, and inadequate, but it was a start. We all need to remember the following lines from that old movie; 'Open the pod bay door HAL. . . HAL? HAL!!' 'Sorry Dave, I can't do that.'

  147. It's also another generational issue, as unfortunately most folks under 30 give up their privacy without even thinking about it. A recent, strange example: the wife and I were recently looking at, well, adult goods, on Amazon. I was shocked at the thousands of reviews for each device - many including customers' full names and even photos. These customers happily left extremely intimate details about their sexual likes and dislikes regarding each device. Now I'm all for sexual freedom and free speech. But for one of the first times, I felt like an "old man", in total disbelief of what people were willing to tell a company, and millions of strangers, about their sex lives.

  148. Kara, it is vastly more complex than you seem to propose. First the consumer already decided that they prefer “the Internet based” information for free. At the dawn of the Internet era there were plenty of companies that tried the “for fee” model. They all went out of business. This is similar to time decades ago when we decided we wanted TV form “free” in exchange for advertising time. Secondly, and much more importantly, capitalism and its initial funding approach play a much different role these days. These services that are “free” can only reach a critical mass by gargantuan up front funding from private investors (see Google, Facebook, Instagram, but also AinB, Uber) that build critical size and make us dependent on their services. Once that dependency is established, the private investors want and need their money back. And we now happily pay. The above is a well established playbook of big finance capitalism. That is the way small mom and pop shops, small hotels, small bakeries, and so on went all out of business. This is the way capitalism works. If as a society we do not like it we could have reigned in this type of economic take over by large well funded financial institutions by establishing far more restrictive anti-thrust laws a century ago. We did not. And received the rewards accordingly. If this is or was good for society is obviously a judgement that we as a society have vastly different point of views - however as a majority through democracy we approved.

  149. Scott McNealy: “There is nothing to be done about it but consumer choice.” What he articulates here is the depressing but pervasive notion that neoliberalism capitalism in its current state is inevitable: admittedly flawed, but nevertheless the best we can hope for; that we humans and our irrational longings for a different and better world are unrealistic; that we are ultimately collateral in the face of the freedom to accumulate money.

  150. @suiops Well said.

  151. What troubles me most are the digital zombies I seen walking down the streets and crossing streets against the light in traffic with head down and eyes glued to their iPhones. People sitting next to one-another at restaurants, each one one their phones and not talking to one another. The art of social interactions, face to face, may be dying - not to mention dying while texting and driving.

  152. Sharing my data doesn't bother me as long as it is not used to rip me off, embarrass me or cause me financial harm. Most of the information that is shared is useful only to marketers. Let them market away. For some people sharing harmless details of their lives is a substitute for actual friendship which is difficult to come by in this community-challenged age.

  153. @Jay Orchard Read the other stories in this series and learn. Start with the insurance industry.

  154. @Scott D Saw it. I don't mind having my health monitored. I exercise.

  155. @Jay Orchard You're very confident--do you never get sick?

  156. Are people not aware of the way these companies make money? They are first and foremost advertising companies - why are you surprised that they use your data to sell you stuff? At the end of the day, its about money - lack of privacy is just an artifact. As someone involved in tech since the early 80's I'm in full agreement with McNealy's observation - you've never had privacy on the internet, but until recently it was not quite so blatantly obvious. If you don't want your information harvested, then your (only) choice is to opt out.

  157. We are not going to reverse the course of new technologies. That would be the equivalent of banning cars so we can return to the clippety-clop of horses. But there is a lot we can do ourselves: Clear the cache on smartphones every day; get off Facebook; don’t Tweet; use Google sparingly; change passwords periodically; and demand that the government pass sensible regulations to curb the excesses of the tech companies.

  158. I was given an Amazon Echo Dot as a holiday gift over a year ago. I only used it for weather forecasts and for playing music. But when, on multiple occasions, Alexa started having random conversations with me, I unplugged it. It became increasingly clear that despite the protestations of Bezos and company, this device was listening. Always. How neat a trick is it to convince consumers to install a spying device in their own homes willingly? And that's exactly what these devices are, make no mistake. It's creepy enough that browsing a few shopping sites on my PC suddenly triggers ads for the same companies on my phone. And I'm convinced (though the tech companies deny it) that our tech providers are also listening to conversations/reading emails via our phones and serving ads, accordingly. I'm fully resisting the push to connect all of my home appliances to the internet. Aside from the headache of trading handymen for IT troubleshooters (Lord, help us) when things go wrong, I simply don't want my every move or eating habits to become fodder for more marketing or even lifestyle intervention. I envision a day when a device named Hal locks the refrigerator and says, "I'm sorry, Dave. You've already met your calorie requirements for the day."

  159. Any and all technologies can be weaponized, so let's not fault the technology and concentrate instead on the perpetrators of harm. As already mentioned here, tech companies aren't really interested in you the individual, it's more about big data, which regardless of your action or inaction is growing geometrically, already at thousands of exabytes. You may argue that China's surveillance technologies are Orwellian, and in its current state, I'd have to agree. But imagine a world that freely policed itself with ubiquitous, openly available monitoring technologies, complete with facial recognition please, capturing our every public activity. Such a world would demand personal responsibility of its citizens, because no bad deed would go unseen. Can we prevent weaponization of this ever-growing trove of public information? Why not? With emerging peer-to-peer, decentralized technologies like blockchain, it will become increasingly difficult to game the system. Data theft, like any other form of theft, must be scrutinized and prosecuted, but what if that too were public. Where's the incentive to commit the crime if everyone can see? Maybe you want to hide out of blind fear of the unknown, but I suspect many cry "Big Brother" in self-defense, while quietly fearing ubiquitous, transparent surveillance systems would bring their evil deeds to light and actually force them to take responsibility for their harmful ways. Digitization is inevitable and resistance is futile. Live with it.

  160. @Don Swinscoe I highly recommend you read "The Circle" which hypothesizes exactly what you suggest with very dire consequences. (Read the book; the movie is terrible.) A better solution is for techies to have an ethics review process much like the medical community has that evaluates new procedures and clinical trials in the attempt to address the impact on humanity. The medical community has a binding principle of "first, do no harm". Sadly, the technology industry--like Wall Street--is in the business to make money first, humans be damned.

  161. @Sabrina Thanks for sharing your perspective. I've read "The Circle," seen the film and found it entertaining, but myopically sensational. Ask yourself: are all the characters equally transparent? No. Instead, data's showcased again as weapon, wielded by the few. In reality, data's not the villain though, nor are the technologies that convert it. Instead, evil exists because of privileged human access and hidden abuses. Data is an unavoidable byproduct of our existence. As with our climate, if left unmonitored, it poisons us too. Ultimate transparency is critical to preserve our existence, so yes, I agree that ethics must be a guiding force in our physical and digital lives, but I think better technology is our only hope. Quite frankly, we are the "technology industry" you mention. Social media, search engines and other online tools are mere reflections of our world, extending our reach. Data and tools don't inherently cause harm though, their users do. The ethics review you seek must include everyone. Not determined by a small group of folks deliberating in a closed room, but instead by an open, transparent system of monitoring, providing the means of self-regulating our ethical conduct in all matters and maintaining a meritocracy that rewards good behavior and punishes evil deeds, openly available for everyone to see and shape. There can be no public privacy.

  162. @Don Swinscoe I get your point but I'm not sure technology is the way out of this. I'd say we absolutely need more regulation, but sadly our legislators are woefully ignorant about how the tech works and what the possible future implications might be. Open monitoring systems sound great in theory, but like our politics, I suspect most people would never engage as they should, which still gives those who know more about the technology or have more funding an opportunity to manipulate the system. A form of gerrymandering, if you will. No, I really do think this boils down to a self-regulating professional industry organization for tech/data/privacy similar to the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, and the like, so that companies and their practitioners can lose accreditation for unethical behavior as deemed by the principles that body has sworn their members to uphold. Whether it's feasible to have tech industry leaders agree to what those principles are may be a different story, but I think it would be worth having that conversation.

  163. The price for these free platforms is giving up our privacy so they can profit. What bothers me with Amazon and Facebook is that we’re not given a choice. I pay Amazon already and feel they have no right to use my purchasing data. With Facebook I have stopped using it until they offer a reasonable fee to guarantee my privacy. In general, I would prefer to have all my data in a digital safe deposit box under my control not the FANGS.

  164. Advertisers are in our face, on line, on TV and in the street. The fact that they can track and target us on line repulses me. Why isn't there a turn off switch for tracking consumers buying habits and posting whenever we log on. As usual, Europe has it right!!!

  165. Focus on the cookie for a moment. What makes the "free" internet corrosive to our social health is that it is experientially free. As grandma said: You pay for everything, and you get what you pay for. In this case, we pay for our addiction with a free pass to cookies, and, since we don't actually pay for any of it, we get a lot more than we want. We have lost our leverage to say "no" by choosing not to purchase. How is it free? ...advertising, of course! ...the original Cookie Monster! The very concept of bankrolling entertainment, communications, and media industries with funds from an entirely different industry has become so ubiquitous that we no longer see it as an absurdity. We've gone from Horace Greeley selling a few ads to bring down the cost of his daily rag, to TV dramas served up by soap companies, to a society in which virtually every form of communication, information, and entertainment is beholden to commercial advertisers claiming our attention with totally unrelated diversion. It is all free and evermore cheap. We end up with exactly what we pay for. There is nothing wrong with advertising, but it is time to financially disconnect ads that sell trucks and toilet paper from news outlets, entertainment, and connectivity. Try and imagine a world in which content and service sold themselves, and advertisers relied only on the quality of the products they sell to gain access to our attention. Pay for what we get, and say no the the Cookie Monsters.

  166. Yes. We need a law. . .we've given up way too much control and I for one. .want to get it back. Thank you, Ms. Swisher for leading the charge.

  167. The thing I find baffling is how much of this "sharing" is based around either annoying other people or allowing ourselves to be annoyed. What kind of business model is based around annoyance, and how sustainable is that?

  168. @erhoades marriage comes to mind. :-D Just kidding. You're right! The hours my kids spend on phones. I try to convince them that they make $14/hour working part-time, but equate 4-5 hours a night on their phones as zero cost. At some point we need to realize that there is a tremendous opportunity cost to time frittered away on devices, whether they're TVs, tablets or phones. (says the guy typing into a screen)

  169. People in traditional families with four generations of a hundred people living under the same roof shared more with others. It’s the idea of privacy that got overextended and now seeing a pullback.

  170. I think the damage has been done to this first generation of Internet users in terms of privacy. The biggest mistake our government made and the mistake the companies wholeheartedly took advantage of was “opt-out”. By allowing companies to put the onus on the user to deny the company from using their information rather than the company requesting to use information, the user essentially opens the door to their house and said “come on in and take anything you want.”. Every company should be required to have an opt-in policy. Basically deny these companies the information unless you authorize, rather than giving them everything then selectively removing their ability to use it later. Plus, these companies have shown that once they have the information, they could care less if you opt-out or not. I would argue that the only way to avoid it is abstinence.

  171. There is an aspect which I feel needs more attention. That is the effect of errors in the processing of the harvested data. If the outcome is used for the selection of ads, you will get an ad for something you are not interested in. No big deal. However things are becoming less innocent when the outcome of the processing is going to be used for more important aspects of one's life. Facial recognition is not 100% right. AI algorithms are non-tractable. So what if you, at the check-in for your next flight, are being told by the machine "boarding denied" without any reason. Complain with the airline? "Sorry sir, we get our passenger screening data from company X" Complain with company X? "Sorry sir, we get our data from company Y". Complain with company Y? Sorry sir, our algorithms are proprietary and we never comment on individual cases"...

  172. @Leen On the question of regulating cyber space, or making any regulation at all, is the tension between the state "prescribing" versus "proscribing." Prescription tells you what to do, proscription tells you what not to do. The Harm Prevention principle is proscriptive: do no harm. Maybe the simplest approach in regulating tech and even the state itself, is to measure by harm done to the user and society at large. We can then let the lawyers duke it out over whether "harm" has been inflicted or not. With a simple tax on high tech, a public litigation fund could be instituted to finance complaints, and then let the courts guide us through this "wild west " of the internet.

  173. But, how will I curate the purely superficial aspects of my life - and perpetually violate the privacy of my loved ones - if I don't have social media platforms to rely on? Oh, that's right. None of these things provide any qualitative good to my life.

  174. I agree with many points raised in this essay but do you have to use the "grok" word in every essay you write? I know it is a real word now but it just sounds pretentious.

  175. Agreed. There are an awful lot of idiots out there engaging in TMI on social media; publishing everything from what they cooked for dinner to their children's school report cards and their vacation plans. Which is why I don't belong to Facebook, Twitter, Linked in or any other platform that wants me to share my life with the rest of the world.

  176. Rather than a law, we simply need to exhibit self-control to take some of it back.

  177. @Andre Hoogeveen Amen

  178. As someone who is resistant to always needing the latest technology, I always--at some point--succumb out of necessity. For instance, wanting to book an Airb&b, requires downloading an app. (I had a dumb phone and I didn't use apps). It also required (after dealing with the app thing) uploading my driver's license. Do I like doing that? No, not at all. I could have stayed at a hotel, but it'd be a lot more expensive for a lesser experience. We all get pulled along this in this modern techno world. Some willingly, some kicking -and-screaming, and some (some people who are elderly, some people with disabilities, some people who live in rural areas) will get left behind. I don't know what the answer is.

  179. In the history of the world? To quote president Bartlett, who are you comparing against? The visigoths, adusted for inflation?

  180. The public is outraged over companies such as Microsoft, Google, FarceBook and others profiting from collected data. These companies are comfortable gathering and selling whatever data they can get their hands on. When questionable relationships are exposed, they offer limp apologies topped off with promises to do better next time. Repeatedly. These companies all skew social liberal/Democratic. Perhaps it isn't just conservative/Republicans who are the sneaky, greedy self-interested 1%-ers. Should I care that Amazon knows I buy toilet paper (which it doesn't because I boycott them)? Probably not. I do care that police are now solving cold cases using genealogical sites such as 23andMe (a company Google invested in heavily). Even though I personally have never used any of those sites, I can be tracked down if one distant relative sends in DNA. Without my knowledge or consent, I am then linked to those data bases. I do care that medical records are all online now. What's to keep the government from searching those records to find out if I've been vaccinated? Only a single emergency declaration. We are blithely enabling the intrusion into our lives in exchange for what exactly? The excitement of posting that photo of your dog getting a bath? Having your 'fridge remind you to buy yogurt? Saving a few dollars on toilet paper and the convenience of having a drone drop it at your door? Big Brother IS watching and we should be very worried.

  181. Why participate in the first place? Social media is nothing but a great time sink, and an anxiety-producing wasteland of misplaced feeling. And surfing is just procrastination most of the time. Why bother? There are so many ways to connect with people you truly care about, very old-fashioned some of them, some maybe 20 years old even, like email, the phone, real letters on real stationery [do you know what that is?]. Get an ad blocker. Get off facebook and the rest. Get up and off your 'device" once in awhile. Go work out, or do some house cleaning or something maybe slightly productive, without your phone. You'll feel better.

  182. Please! Someone out there.....start taking back the control we once had and the more peaceful happiness that went with it. Please!

  183. Come on, who wants privacy? Everybody wants to be a celebrity! On Facebook everybody can be a Kardashian!

  184. Peter Townsend of the band WHO says it best.. “Man makes machines to man the machines that make the machines.”

  185. You have a choice. Did you check the little box that says "I agree with these terms and conditions"? You have a choice. Stop using Facebook. Stop using Amazon. Stop using Google. Browse in Private. Or.... Get over it.

  186. No. And you get over it. We are not impotent before corporate demands. They will not restrain themselves decently and so require regulation. For these services just as for others that affect the public good.

  187. @jb I am over it. And I feel fine. What corporate demands are you referring to? Does facebook demand that you have an account? Does google demand that you use its search engines? Does apple demand that you buy an iPhone?

  188. @gonzo, well, yes, "Get over it" is more pleasant out-bound than inbound, certainly. As to why powerful corporations with needful services making excessive or potentially harmful requirements of consumers must be restrained by regulation lest they abuse the public, the NYT comments are not adequate to the education needed, especially for someone who hasn't understood it already. Please see history or economic sources, which are plentiful on the subject.

  189. @Frank J Haydn You are delusional if you think you have full control over anything. At best, you are led to believe you choose from among the options advertisers, manufacturers, doctors, drug companies, stores, schools, churches, and every other broker in our economic and cultural life have pre-selected for you. And you do so without full knowledge, or often any knowledge, of the pros and cons. To take your specific example, drug companies giving incentives to doctors to prescribe opioids, consumer focused campaigns about the right to "full" pain relief, prescriptions with no information about a drug's addictive potential, poverty that fuels street sale of drugs for a quick high, lax health insurance oversight and regulations that permit reimbursement for excessive prescriptions, the greed of drug manufacturers, and myriad other factors seriously compromise a sick person's "full control." Same goes for computer access. It comes with a whole lot of mandates and pre-selected "choices." It is specifically designed to give users the illusion of control with no actual agency or power at all.

  190. Yet my ad blocking software is telling me that I'm currently blocking at least six tracking cookies as I read this. I get tired of columns like this that pretend the Times isn't part of the problem. I get the need for revenue, but I don't see why paid subscribers have to put up with it.