Joshua Burger-Caplan

1 post

News Roundup

By David Kellam, CLS ’19

Earlier this year, Congress voted to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) broadband privacy protections, allowing Internet service providers to sell our data.[1] As the market for our personal information continues to grow, service providers are not the only ones who are trying to convert our browsing history into a market commodity. In fact, major online services like Google and Facebook have been using and selling our data for years in order to make advertisements more specific to our online behavior.[2]   For instance, in 2015, Google began tracking people’s locations and structuring them in individual online portfolios known as “timelines.”[3] Anyone with access to your Google profile (millions of people get hacked per year) can see exactly where you go, when, and how frequently. In May of this year, Google announced that it would begin to tie credit card transactions to online behavior so that it can see how influential targeted advertising has been on people’s actual spending habits.[4]

While some argue that such invasions are innocuous or that they are merely making our online experience more personalized, others postulate that this era of data mining marks the end of human privacy as we know it.[5] While this may sound hyperbolic, it is certainly true that our understanding of privacy is changing. Although human privacy may not yet be lost in entirety, the convenience that is the supposed advantage of corporate data mining has a sinister side.   Last month, the stored data of millions of Instagram users was hacked and organized into a searchable spreadsheet allowing any victim’s contact information to be searched for $10.[6] Even healthcare organizations, the IRS, and Docusign have been the victims of hacking this year.[7] If Congress continues to broaden corporate latitude over our data, the risk of our personal information’s dissemination will grow, and the allegedly well-intentioned “personalization” of our online experience will have evolved into a frontal assault on our most private information.

[1] Thomas Fox-Brewster, Now Those Privacy Rules are Gone, This is How ISPs Will Actually Sell Your Privacy Data, Forbes (Mar. 30, 2017),

[2] Chris Smith, Why Facebook and Google Mine Your Data, And Why There’s Nothing You Can Do To Stop It, BGR (Feb. 11, 2016),

[3] Google Maps Now Allows You to Stalk Yourself Using Google Maps Timeline, Fossbytes (July 22, 2015),

[4] Andrew Burt & Dan Greer, Opinion, The End of Privacy, N.Y. Times (Oct. 5, 2017),

[5] Id.

[6] Casey Newton, An Instagram Hack Hit Millions of Accounts, and Victims’ Phone Numbers Are Now For Sale, The Verge, September 1, 2017,

[7] Heidi Daitch, 2017 Data Breaches – The Worst So Far, Identity Force (Oct. 9, 2016),