Imagine a stranger off the street wandering into your bathroom while you are simmering in the tub and asking what brand of soap you prefer.
Or think of that stranger rifling through your medicine cabinet or bedroom closet or kitchen cupboards or bookshelves to see what products you use, what clothes you wear, what food you eat and what books you read.
If that really happened, you’d call the cops.
Yet, we seem to have acquiesced to allowing strangers with names like Facebook and Google to gather our personal data and sell it to other companies that want to sell us goods and services based on the patterns of our online likes and searches. We keep our smartphones and laptops and iPads and other devices close to us as if they are our dearest companions. We divulge all kinds of intimate information to those devices and, like little gossips, they pass it on to the big companies that see us as products more than people.
Sometimes we give permission for this sharing, often by agreeing to massive online permission forms that no one ever reads. Other times, we have no control over our information at all. We are exposed with nary a fig leaf to be found.
There is a bill in the state legislature that could give us at least a measure of power over the mining of our digital data. The Washington Privacy Act would grant citizens in this state the same right to access, transfer, correct and delete data that Californians and Europeans already enjoy. It might not even the playing field, but it would give us a chance in the game and would put the state attorney general on our team if things go awry.
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