Protecting Our Data

-- By ChevaunSamuels - 02 Dec 2019

There have been many data breaches within the last few years. These breaches have opened our eyes regarding the lack of privacy we have when it comes to our data. It is my opinion that digital privacy experiences vary depending on social class and poorer Americans are among those who have the most at risk.

Data brokers are often used to target low-income Americans for predatory products such as high-interest mortgages, for-profit educational scams, and payday loans. Data is also used to exclude people living in poverty from opportunities that would foster their economic stability. For example, colleges are assessing algorithms to determine which student will likely stick around for graduation and will ultimately be successful. Landlords are scouring credit reports to predict whether prospective tenants will pay the rent. These algorithms are often erroneous, and this means a lack of transparency for individuals who are not given a job or are denied from an academic institution based on an algorithm.

Statistics also show that social media users in the lowest income bracket are significantly less likely than higher-earning groups to say they have used privacy settings to restrict access to the content they post online. Low-income media users are also less likely to engage in other privacy-protective strategies that may impact the way they are tracked online. Low-income technological users are less likely to feel as though they know enough about managing their privacy settings and are less likely to feel they have a good understanding of the privacy policies for the applications and the websites they use. While using privacy settings and restricting the use of cookies may limit some forms of tracking and profiling, some algorithmic systems can also include profile information that many users may not realize has retroactively become available or is made accessible through third-party apps.

Consumers do not understand privacy notices and often cannot install proper software that would protect them from an attack. I do firmly believe that there should be some overarching privacy laws that protect the most vulnerable individuals in our society. I am well aware that certain individuals are better off protecting themselves and I do think that they should have the opportunity to continue to do that rather than putting control in the hands of one person. However, I do understand the need for some regulation when it comes to individuals who do not possess the capacity to do this themselves.

It is easy to say that individuals who have access to technology can simply look for software that will protect their data and their information. However, that is simply not true. Many software programs exist to do more harm than good. A layperson who does not know about technology can attempt to download software programs and ultimately have more problems than they had before downloading that software. Privacy laws can mitigate some of these problems for the less well-off individuals. The protection may not be as good as individuals who are well aware of all the possibilities of protection and are capable of protecting themselves. However, better privacy laws will seek to protect the masses and individuals who their data breached.

This is not the solution that will fix everything, but it is a solution that also impacts individuals who are not always protected. It can be argued that training people to protect themselves would be very beneficial for the long term. However, it is impossible to train every single person. There should be some underlying protections that are protecting everyone daily. If you do not possess the knowledge to find the right software and protect yourself, why should you have to suffer?

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