Almost everything about you has become mere data that companies turn into money for themselves. But Art Prateepvanich says Californians have a new tool to take back lost privacy.
Ten years ago, when I worked for THE giant Internet company in Sunnyvale, I tried to sell your data. Our customers, marketers, weren’t interested. We explained how the data could help them
target consumers with precision, and we showed them. But no amount of explaining or demonstrating mattered. Ten years ago, your online data was for sale, but almost nobody was buying.
Five years later, the sentiment changed. Marketers, with their billion-dollar advertising budgets, came around. Venture capitalists invested in startups whose business models could be summarized as: “capture” user data, then convert it to revenue. In tech, we spied a modern-day Gold Rush, and we frantically started digging. It paid off.
The biggest winners sold startups for hundreds of millions of dollars to the tech “whales”, companies like Facebook, Oracle and Adobe. And the whales won too, as did their shareholders. Unlike five years previous, there was a bidding war for your data. And the price was in the tens of billions of dollars.
While much of this occurred out of sight from most Californians, it is the force that continues to threaten our privacy. That’s why I’m overjoyed that we now have a means to assert control, the California Consumer Privacy Act. The law navigated a most improbable path to come into being, overcoming opposition from tech firms that saw it as an attack on their lifeblood and continued growth. The law declares that we have a right to know what data is being collected about us, and that we have a right to opt out of the sale of our data. And as of January 1st, every company must comply or face penalties. The law is a triumph for Californians, and a gift. But when I ask friends and neighbors whether they intend to exercise their new rights, I hear the same response: No.