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Baby Steps to Security: New York City Banning Use of Location Data

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Recently, Netflix released a documentary that paints the picture of the Cambridge Analytica scandal called “The Great Hack”. One person in the documentary, David Carroll, sues Cambridge Analytica for the right to see what data they had collected on him and how.

In his own words, “We have become the commodity.” He’s right. Our data outlines our personalities, and our personalities shape what we buy, what we wear, what we do, etc. Our data is the selling point of social media.

Photo: Cnet

Do you ever wonder why sites such as Twitter and Facebook are free? Why Instagram lets you post whatever, whenever? Why Discord is free but feels premium?

It’s all because they get your data, and that’s the real moneymaker. Not your wallet, not your cryptocurrency, you. You’re the data, and companies will jump through every legal loophole to get it. If you’re concerned about data privacy and would like to catch the documentary which might not be available in your region, try using a Netflix VPN and connect to a U.S. server.

However, New York City may become a bit more secure now, thanks to a bill introduced to the local government.

Dead in Their Tracks

Councilman Justin Brannan proved his advocacy for user privacy on July 24th, when he introduced a bill to the city council that would make the sharing of location data illegal among mobile carriers and app developers.

But why would Brannan need to introduce such a bill? Major mobile carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile promised to not sell customer data last year, and surely they can be trusted, right? When have companies ever lied to us about the use of our data?

Jokes aside, this bill is a spit in the face to mobile carriers, but it’s deserved. Brannan is tired of the lies that companies have been spewing about our data, as he says here:

“How many times are big corporations going to take advantage of us before we stop taking their word?” he said. “If these corporations wanted to be transparent about this practice, they wouldn’t have started selling the data to shady third parties without a person’s explicit consent in the first place. Why should we trust them now?”

This bill presents an important mark in the regulation of privacy. The only reason a bill like this would fail is if the people voting for it are driven by money and the mobile carriers share their fat wallets.

This bill definitely has a chance of failing.

If the bill failed, then it shows the city council’s stance on consumer’s and their privacy: Cash rules everything.

However, this bill doesn’t completely restrict the use of data when it comes to governmental use. Government officials and police offers would still be able to request your data, customers can willingly opt in to hand over their data, and the city can use the data for their purposes.

What’s important is stopping the selling of data by mobile companies. While you’re using Google Maps to drive to your new job, AT&T is selling the data it’s collecting like they’re selling a TV on eBay!

Brannan’s hope is that this bill creates a ripple effect throughout the country. New York City bans the selling of location data, then maybe San Francisco, possibly Miami, the possibilities are endless. What matters is that cities—and, by extension, the citizens—know that they have the power to repel the advances of corporate greed.

Political power is all citizens can count on, too. Citizens of America are unwilling to protest when it comes to data, corporations have too much power, and it all seems hopeless to some American citizens. Why go through so much trouble for nothing when you can download a new VPN trial and hide your data instead?

People are obsessed with finding short-term solutions for long-term problems, but a band-aid can’t fix a broken leg. This bill may not seem like much, but its approval can irreversibly change the way data is viewed in the eyes of the government, and for that alone, it’s worth it.

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