as a large example, reportedly has data on 500 million consumers worldwide, has 23,000 servers collecting and analyzing this data, and up to1,500 data points per person – and that’s just one company.
Efforts to uncover the extent of data broker activity have not generally gotten far in the US – until now. Vermont, a state most known for its beautiful Autumn maple leaves and Bernie Sanders, has changed that. The new law has three major points:
While this law is not exactly earthshaking, it is a first for any of the 50 states in the USA. As such, its impact will be far greater than the state’s tiny ranking (49th state by population with just 626,000 people). It is expected that this may strengthen other efforts to rein in data brokers underway in the state of Washington.
Europeans are big steps ahead of Americans on the digital privacy front thanks to the GDPR. Among other points, GDPR establishes two legs to privacy: First, personal data can only be collected and saved for specific purposes. Second, this data can be collected only with the explicit consent of the user. GDPR has meant that Europeans have recently gotten hit with a swarm of email data requests from companies wanting to continue sharing and exchanging your data. It has also meant that some companies have unveiled lists of other companies that they share your data with. PayPal, for example, shares user data with over 600 companies.
In George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother is essentially a governmental figure as it spies on individual activities. This description fits in the wake of Snowden’s revelations about the US government’s NSA spy activity, the strengthening Great Wall of China, and Russian moves against VPNs.
But what happens if this surveillance isn’t commercial? What happens if everything we do online is watched for commercial reasons so we can be sent ever larger amounts of targeted advertisements or turned down for medical insurance due to our surfing history?
Vermont is a tiny state with a very big value on personal privacy. Citizens of Vermont value their privacy at $4,125 – nearly double the US average of $2,163 according to a recent survey. While some companies might deride the Vermont effort as yet another regulatory hoop to step through, it could provide big rewards for Americans by putting more transparency into a largely hidden market for those private online activities.