As Technology Advances, What Will Happen With Online Privacy?

As technology continues to advance, what will happen to online privacy? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Marc Groman, Former Senior Advisor for Privacy in the White House, co-host of Their Own Devices podcast, on Quora:

Traditional concepts of privacy — our right to be left alone — and the basic principle that the content of our communications should remain confidential — are being challenged and eroded with advancements in digital technology. Similarly, the fundamental principle that individuals should be able to control when their personal data is collected by third parties and how it is used is nearly impossible to implement in a world where personal data is collected, created, used, processed, analyzed, shared, transferred, copied, and stored in unprecedented ways and at an extraordinary speed and volume. This includes the collection and creation of unprecedented volumes of personal data from an ever-increasing number of connected devices - smartphones, smartwatches, other wearable devices, smart toys, connected cars, drones, personal assistants like the Amazon echo, etc. This Internet of Things -- the network of physical objects, or “things,” embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity to enable objects to collect and exchange data -- is expected to expand from an estimated 8.4 billion devices in 2017 to a projected 20.4 billion in 2020.

There will be no opting out of this data-intensive world. Technology and sharing personal information will indispensible to participation in modern society. Internet access and use of new digital technologies will be necessary for employment, education, access to benefits, and full participation in economic and civic life.

So what happens to our personal data, identity, reputation, and privacy in this digital, connected world? Unclear. Our privacy laws in the United States are based on antiquated notions of notice and choice, and are completely inadequate to address this rapid evolution in technology, computer science, and artificial intelligence. Although Congress is now debating new Federal privacy legislation, I’m not optimistic that policymakers will be able to craft a law that will address these issues in a meaningful way — if they can create any law at all. There are too many stakeholders involved in the debate, each protecting their own economic self interest and competitive advantage in the marketplace. And the issues are complex. Add to this the pathetic fact that companies in 2019 can’t seem to protect or secure any data, much less our sensitive personal data.

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