Yahoo was forced last week to stop concealing the largest data breach in American history. In one sense, the disclosure was no shock since Pew Research reports that 91% of Americans realize they have lost control of critical personal data to corporations. But the Yahoo breach does reveal something more sinister: corporate data addiction is becoming one of the greatest preventable threats to our nation’s security.
Since hacking is a permanent feature of life in the Digital Age, the best way to reduce the damage to the public and our nation is for corporate America to go to data rehab.
We need to replace data binging with moderation. But the personal information of the American public has become a form of corporate cocaine for many companies in the era of big data – a drug that is plentiful, highly addictive and toxic.
As we transition from the advent of the Digital Age to the Internet of Things, the security risks associated with the unprecedented commerce in personal consumer data will increase exponentially. The 8.7 billion devices currently connected to the Internet are expected to increase 10-fold within five years. Each such device not only constitutes a point of individual vulnerability, but collectively, they put our national security at risk.
Beyond their intended purpose, these devices will also collect and transmit vast amounts of private user data to the manufacturers and other third parties – under the aegis of privacy waivers that are effectively “contracts of adhesion” designed to create a legal fiction of meaningful consent to protect the insatiable corporate appetite for personal data mining.
Theoretically, citizens are free to protect their privacy by opting out, but in reality, it is simply not possible to do that and still be full participants in the modern economy or society. While these devices provide convenience, the data they transmit can be used in ways that harm the public.
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