We live in an amazing time. We can turn on smart devices in our home with our voices. Those devices turn other devices and appliances on and off. We can get almost anything in the world delivered to our doorstep by clicking on apps. How could our lives be made any more convenient?
But smart devices are not sold for convenience. That is the sales pitch but not the purpose. As much as we get from those devices, the devices get much more from us.
Data is collected, stored and analyzed regarding every move we make. Where we go is tracked with location software. Every click and command provides more data. Purchases are recorded and associated with demographic data such as age, sex, race, gender and ZIP code.
Cameras we forget we have in our homes capture photographs, video and audio. This occurs even when we assume devices are turned off.
What happens to that surreptitiously gathered personal data? The data is traded by data brokers who provide it to advertisers and law enforcement. The data is used to micro target consumers with ads tailored to individual taste.
Law enforcement uses the data to build enormous databases with index and search capabilities. Law enforcement also acquires data from motor vehicle bureaus, social media platforms and DNA genealogy sites.
We’re not talking about gathering specific data that may be evidence that a particular person committed a particular crime. They’re acquiring and storing massive amounts of data about innocent people unconnected to any crime.
Why is this a problem? We like to buy what we like to buy. We want the police to solve crimes. But big brother/big business spying on us in our homes is creepy. More importantly, these practices violate our constitutional right to privacy and put our security at risk. Currently, the police bypass the constitutional requirements of search warrants based on probable cause that a particular person committed a particular crime.
Hackers have been known to acquire data stored by brokers, as well as direct access to video footage. Rogue employees have spied on consumers. In one case, an employee of a security company used the security camera to talk remotely to a young child in her bedroom.
The police use the data with facial recognition software to try to identify subjects. But the software is not accurate enough to rely on for court. Photos of dark-skinned persons are more difficult to distinguish. Amazon’s Rekognition software misidentified 26 Congresspersons in an experiment.
Some states passed laws that protect consumers from these privacy intrusions. Similar legislation has been proposed in Congress. These laws and bills require notice and consent, opt-in and -out choices, full disclosure regarding data brokering, processes to correct or delete data already brokered, privacy practices audits and oversight and the regulation or banning of facial recognition.
Texas families deserve to have these consumer privacy protection laws enacted into Texas law.