California Focus: Internet privacy on the ballot

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On its surface, few California propositions have ever been as confusing as this fall’s Proposition 24, which aims to toughen a 2018 state law allowing consumers to regulate how much of their privacy Internet companies like Facebook and Google should be allowed to violate.
To fully understand the stakes, it’s helpful to watch the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” which shows how social media companies change people’s behavior by using information they collect on what emails folks open, which websites they visit, where people live and travel and much more.
For each bit of such information these companies collect and sell, they get a couple of pennies per buyer, which does not sound like much, but adds up to billions of dollars every year.
If you wonder why American political opinion is so deeply divided, former tech executives including the chief designer of Facebook’s “Like” function describe in the documentary how people who do a Google search in various localities often get very different information than folks who live elsewhere. The same for people who donate to one party and those who donate to another.
In each case, prior opinions and preferences are reinforced, so that even when …

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