Whoever Controls Our Data Controls Us

We need to take back our data.

Bruce Schneier writes in a commentary on Wired that we have become intimately bound with our data in the information age. The bits of information about us that are collected and stored in hundreds, even thousands of different spots around the globe determine whether we can get a job, obtain health insurance, have a loan approved, even board an airplane or enter a foreign country.

We leave a data trail wherever we go: when we use a discount card at the supermarket; when we log on to the Internet through our ISP; when we pick up a cell phone call. Each bit and byte has the potential to affect our future, yet we have no control over who handles it, who gains access to it, even whether we can have a look at it ourselves.

Schneier believes that we must have a comprehensive new data privacy law:

This law should protect all information about us, and not be limited merely to financial or health information. It should limit others’ ability to buy and sell our information without our knowledge and consent. It should allow us to see information about us held by others, and correct any inaccuracies we find. It should prevent the government from going after our information without judicial oversight. It should enforce data deletion, and limit data collection, where necessary. And we need more than token penalties for deliberate violations.

Schneier admits that the task is difficult. Corporations and the law enforcement lobby would prefer to see the individual left powerless in the face of this onslaught against privacy and personal freedom.

We advocate a dual approach. Sure, lobby your Congressperson. Push your favorite Presidential candidate to commit to protecting data rights. Dick Durbin is currently holding hearings in the Senate focused on U. S. companies like Cisco that have helped China and other nations oppress their people. Legislation to prohibit this cozy state/corporate alliance against the individual is contemplated; some has even been introduced in the House . But it is not expected to apply to the United States. Tell Durbin that the privacy rights of Americans are worth protecting too.

But don’t depend on the politicians to come up with anything anytime soon. Begin to change your habits to better protect your data and yourself.

Encrypt your email and use neutral subject headings. Use VPN for browsing to lockout ISP spying. I hear that free vpn trial is a great place to start if you are unsure you want to commit money to one yet, if you’re looking to find a VPN for a specific location, that’s possible too, such as this best Canada vpn. Use cash rather than credit and debit cards. Carefully read privacy provisions before signing anything from a cell phone contract to a medical release to a loan application. Refuse to sign if you and your data are getting screwed. What today is dictated by corporate convenience and greed can be changed if enough of us refuse to go along. You might use a VPN to encrypt your web traffic if you absolutely need to sign in to any of the applications that you suspect will use your personal data. However, make sure to read enough reviews including the likes of norton vpn reviews, so that you’ve an idea about which VPN might work well for you. If you’re not sure where to start looking for the best VPN, you could make use of a VPN Review website such as TheVPNExperts to compare and analyse what works well for you.

Schneier is right:

It’s easy to do nothing and let the market take over. But as we see with things like grocery store club cards and click-through privacy policies on websites, most people either don’t realize the extent their privacy is being violated or don’t have any real choice. And businesses, of course, are more than happy to collect, buy, and sell our most intimate information. But the long-term effects of this on society are toxic; we give up control of ourselves.

Let’s not let that happen.


  1. Appreciated the kind comments.

  2. It is though next to impossible to get large numbers of people to start living OFF the information grid.

    The Matrix movie series is real and we are living in pods.

    • RiaD on May 21, 2008 at 20:48

    can you explain these two sentences please? i’m nearly ‘puter illiterate, but mrD has put zone alarm on my laptop…is that what you’re talking about?

    if i only have a home phone…(wire installed 30+yrs ago) can they spy on who i call? (i have an old black you-dial-it phone)

    Encrypt your email and use neutral subject headings.  Use VPN for browsing to lock out ISP spying.  

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