November 13, 2019

Digital Privacy Is a Class Issue

“When you see an ad for online gambling, it is never a matter of chance. Take, for example, the story of Sportsbet, an Australian company owned by the global gambling-industry behemoth Paddy Power. A recent investigation found that the company spent hundreds of millions of dollars on highly integrated promotional activities. Traditional advertising and celebrity ambassador programs were complemented by a web presence on major platforms, informed by data collected from a wide range of sources. Banks, for instance, are a provider of data to analytics firms that gambling companies rely on to ensure advertising dollars are well spent. The data may be de-identified, but in the grand scheme of things, this is irrelevant. As we move around the web, leaving a trail of data, it gets swept up and sold in all sorts of covert and unexpected ways.

And it’s not just gambling. The digital age has allowed a host of businesses—from online lending to for-profit education—to access detailed information about potential customers, the platforms that can target them, and the money to put it all together.

Often when we think about the right to privacy, we think of the right to be let alone, unmolested by the state. But the digital age has given rise to industrialized data mining, content curation, and automated decision-making, all of which undermine democracy and intensify social divisions. It calls for a more sophisticated understanding of privacy—one that can appreciate both the collective and individual nature of this right.”

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