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The Commercial Tracking of Individuals Has Reached a New Creepy Level

Testimony. The personal reputation business is exploding. Having eroded privacy for decades, shady, poorly regulated data miners, brokers and resellers have now taken creepy classification to a whole new level. Such are the words of professor of Law Frank Pasquale, as he was asked to testify in front of the United States House of Representatives’ subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection on “Algorithms: How Companies’ Decisions About Data and Content Impact Consumers”.
The decline in personal privacy might be worthwhile if it were matched by comparable levels of transparency from corporations and government, but it is not, according to Pasquale who lists the shady business’ data collection in the US:
They have created lists of victims of sexual assault, and lists of people with sexually transmitted diseases. Lists of people who have Alzheimer’s, dementia and AIDS. Lists of the impotent and the depressed. There are lists of “impulse buyers.” Lists of suckers: gullible consumers who have shown that they are susceptible to “vulnerability -based marketing.” Even without such inflammatory data, firms can take advantage of unprecedented levels of other data about consumers.
Pasquale states that there is very little oversight and regulation in the US, when it comes to data collection and on risk of abusing our vulnerabilities is discrimination masqueraded as innovation. Already disadvantaged groups may be particularly hard hit.
According to the testimony, self-regulation is not working. In stead there is a range of responses that US policymakers should look into such as new agencies to ensure algorithmic fairness and accountability, a “watchdog system that allows users to detect discriminatory practices,” and giving citizens the ability
to trigger audits when they suspect unfair and unlawful use of data.
According to the testimony, European data protection law should provide some inspiration for US policymakers.