We Need to See What They Think They Have On Us

Premise

The intersection of innovations in data collection, tracking, and online advertising has created a novel situation in which the public is vulnerable to manipulation by unscrupulous advertisers and hostile foreign actors. In order for we as citizens to understand and take appropriate action, we need to start with an understanding of what information is being collected about us and how it is being used. From there it will be possible to tell what, if any, further regulation might be necessary. I, personally, think that this step should be all that’s needed.

We need a regulation paralleling the Fair Credit Reporting Act that allows us to discover 1) what data has been compiled on us and 2) who is using it and when.

This is particularly true for political advertising.

The companies that sell access to us including Facebook and Twitter, but, also, the Agencies that track our browsing history via cookies or feeds from our (now unregulated) Internet Providers need to make available information on what they are tracking about us and how it is being used.

My Sample Letter

Greetings,

As you are undoubtedly aware, there has been significant Russian influence on United States politics via social media.

We can currently see our what credit companies have on us, whether accurate or not, and when that information is used.

It has become no less vital that we can see what data points the companies selling advertising have collected about us and how that is being used! This is particularly the case for political ads. An understanding of what is being collected, how, and why is the essential first step.

California would be the ideal state to pioneer this legislation requiring this due to it’s role in the tech economy and the resources available to us.

EU countries have had data protection laws in place since the late 90’s and their experience would be a good starting point. See Wikipedia here and here for an intro.

Here’s a few excellent articles that deal with the full extent of the problem and predate the recent ‘discoveries’. It’s much bigger that a few Facebook ads.

Sincerely,
Al Tabor

PS, I’d appreciate a response and would be happy to work on the issue. Here’s something I wrote on Medium to explore the full range of the problem.

Access to State Legislators

  •  California
    • Finding your representatives: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov and plug in your zip code.
    • That will give you access to a 2000 character contact form. Not all that satisfying. Here’s my State Senator, Scott Weiner:  http://sd11.senate.ca.gov/contact
    • A better alternative might be going to the Legislature’s home page, e.g. here for Scott, and then looking at their Legislative staff.
    • I’ll try that and report how it works.