Who watches the watchers? Big Data goes unchecked
The National Security Agency might be tracking your phone calls. But private industry is prying far more deeply into your life. Commercial data brokers know if you have diabetes. Your electric company can see what time you come home at night. And tracking companies can tell where you go on weekends by snapping photos of your car’s license plate and cataloging your movements. Private companies already collect, mine, and sell an estimated 75,000 individual data points on each consumer, according to a Senate report. And they’re poised to scoop up volumes more, as technology unleashes a huge wave of connected devices—from sneaker insoles to baby onesies to cars and refrigerators—that quietly track, log, and analyze our every move. Congress and the administration have moved to rein in the National Security Agency in the year since Edward Snowden disclosed widespread government spying. But Washington has largely given private-sector data collection a free pass. The result: a widening gap in oversight as private data mining races ahead. Companies are able to scoop up ever more information—and exploit it with ever greater sophistication—yet a Politico review has found deep reluctance in D.C. to exercise legislative, regulatory, or executive power to curb the big business of corporate cybersnooping. Politico, 5-17-14.