Do companies know too much about us?

Large companies have been collecting data on their consumers for decades. Older companies gathered information on sales and marketing in order to predict future profits and improve worker efficiency. More recently media giants are collecting very new kinds of data though. Facebook, Google, and many technology corporations are watching what we search, where we go, and even what we say. 

Proponents of increased user data collection argue that it leads to improvements for businesses and their consumers. Feedback oriented data allows managers to make meaningful enhancements to their business with confidence. These decisions lower production costs, increase potential consumers, and allow companies to target customers more efficiently. In the real world, this translates to many user benefits like decreased product costs and advertising that consumers actually find useful. These benefits extend online where data  "tailors new and better digital services to us and also targets ads to our interests, which helps keep online content and service cheap or free".

This data collection provides huge benefits to everyone in the business ecosystem, but it come at the cost of our privacy. "In recent years, concerns about our digital privacy have been exacerbated by the growth of "big data," or massive datasets that are used by companies and other organizations to catalog information about us." Companies like Google have information on "every e-mail you ever sent or received on Gmail. It has every search you ever made, the contents of every chat you ever had over Google Talk. It holds a record of every telephone conversation you had using Google Voice, it knows every Google Alert you've set up. It has your Google Calendar with all content going back as far as you've used it, including everything you've done every day since then. It knows your contact list with all the information you may have included about yourself and the people you know. It has your Picasa pictures, your news page configuration, indicating what topics you're most interested in. And so on." This has led to concerns about potential economic or social discrimination, which have led to many government interventions. These controversial forms of legislation include The Federal Trade Commission Act and The Financial Services Modernization Act. Although they have worked to limit data collection and use, many people feel that they have not done enough to protect citizens privacy.

What are some potential proposals that will protect people’s privacy?

How does the caucus feel about big data collection?

Do you think there should be limits on the amount and types of information companies can use on their consumers?

Do the benefits outweigh the costs of increased data collection?

How can people reduce their digital footprint?