In an age with breaches of major companies resulting in the unauthorized release of personal information occurring daily, consideration should be given to protect personal information. The problem is that a law cannot protect the personal information that most people freely provide to social media companies, credit reporting agencies, and others with little or no forethought to how the information will be used. Laws that penalize companies with significant fines (e.g., Facebook's recent 5 billion dollar fine by the FTC) do little to deter hackers. Further, a fine is a relatively small penalty for companies earning billions of dollars and does little to prevent consumers from being nonchalant about giving away their personal information.
Think about your average day. If you are like most people, at some point you check your e-mail, use the internet, update your financial accounts, place a retail order, and possibly look at social media. If you eat out, you use a debit or credit card. While driving, you pass through numerous cameras and various other surveillance equipment. Your car may be able to track your driving habits, while your phone continually updates your position in relation to the nearest cell tower. If you make a call, your phone carrier keeps a record of it and it can easily be converted into a history of time, place, location, and who you called. GPS in your car, phone, or other device can pinpoint your location within a few feet. Your employer during the day follows what you do on company computers. Maybe you went on a government website today to pay taxes or to order car tags. You probably don’t think much about how many times you are asked to produce a government-issued identification like your driver's license, passport, or social security number in a day. When you arrive home, if you have smart gadgets, everything from security companies to the entertainment on your smart tv or video games immediately begin to update your electronic activity. Even your fitness watch collects data on you. Where does all of this data go?
So what makes anyone believe additional privacy protection laws are in any way going to protect personal information? No doubt privacy laws need a serious update reflecting the modern reality that we are being virtually surveilled 24/7. Given that it takes very little personal information to be compromised or for a person to steal your identity, all personal data should have equal weight for protection. However, laws cannot protect a person’s private information if we don’t take responsibility to keep it private.
Of course, this is not to suggest that everyone goes off the grid. I am merely proposing that laws only penalize the person or company caught, tried, and convicted. Meanwhile, the consumer may be irreparably damaged by the release of private data, and to that end, any legal reparations fall short of the cost of the damage done to a person. The only real protection for privacy is not to be cavalier in how a person gives private data away.