Your digital privacy is a casualty of archaic privacy laws

Close-up of the pencil-scribed word “privacy” being erased.

Your digital privacy is being erased by corporate interests. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/

Your digital privacy is less safe than you realize, suggests professor Neil Richards of Washington University School of Law. So much so that you have “no idea” how much of your personal information is out there, available to governments or parties prepared to bid for your sensitive personal information. And digital privacy laws have done a poor job of keeping up with the number of ways in which you the consumer can be victimized, notes Richards.

Connect the digital privacy dots, says Richards

Richards told Business Insider that most people who bandy about their dirty laundry on the World Wide Web simply aren’t taking into account what could happen to them.

“Sometimes it’s important to connect all the dots,” Richards said. “I really do think the big picture is tremendously important and it tends to get lost.”

The truth of the matter is that one’s private life is no longer private, and digital privacy is a nearly lawless frontier – those parts of it that aren’t controlled by laws crafted and paid for by corporate entities. It doesn’t matter whether a parent is tracking the behavior of a child online, law enforcement is searching someone’s smartphone or advertisers are looking at your browser cookies to determine where you go out to eat – it’s all the same thing. Right to privacy is largely a farce in the digital age.

“What I do see happening is big institutions, the government, police forces, tech companies, they’re always pushing, they’re always asking for more, they’re trying to intrude more into personal information and previously private zones,” said Richards.

Digital privacy, bought and sold

Tracking digital activity is big business for marketers, and social networks like Facebook, Twitter and others give advertisers everything they need. This doesn’t even take into account identity thieves who participate in illegal activities. Marketers skirt digital privacy in a legal fashion, but it can be argued that their actions are an equal violation of one’s right to privacy. At the very least, don’t use the same ID and password for everything, Richards advises – in spite of the fact that we’re being herded toward using universal IDs and log-ins for everything by ubiquitous outlets like Facebook.

“We are seeing more intrusion, more watching into people’s lives and their activities that previously were secret or shared with only a few people, much more of our lives is getting recorded and digitized and shared,” Richards said.

Courts remain divided on digital privacy, and your right to privacy continues to fall by the wayside.

Digital privacy and Fourth Amendment rights


Business Insider

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Los Angeles Times

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