It seems that every time you watch the news, there are stories about leaks from public officials whether through hacks of e-mail accounts or by other means. Some revel in these types of disclosures as they view it as a means of seeing what our elected officials are really up to. Sadly, in this information age, such invasions of privacy need to be a concern for far more than just high-profile individuals.
Corporations are continually campaigning to obtain private information from the online activity of people of all walks of life. They can use it to determine where people spend their time online and therefore, what ads can be targeted to them to increase their sales. Some welcome this as it presumably enables businesses to send you ads for goods and services that you are more likely to be interested in. Others, not surprisingly, see this as a horrible invasion of their privacy and want the government to take steps to keep companies from collecting such data on them.
The U.S. Congress recently passed legislation to repeal internet privacy protections that had gone into effect in the final days of the Obama administration. President Trump fully supports it and is expected to sign it into law. This has caused privacy advocates to take action at the state level.
Legislators in Minnesota have recently passed a bill that would strengthen internet privacy for Minnesota residents. Some observers expect other states to take similar actions. Essentially, once signed by Governor Mark Dayton, the new law would prohibit internet service providers within the state from refusing service to people who do not agree to have their personal information collected while online. This still does not prevent websites such as Google or Facebook from collecting such information on users. However, it is a step in the right direction. Also, using websites such as Google or Facebook is not required whereas it is hard to get around setting up an internet service provider account to get access to the internet, which is increasingly becoming as essential a service as electricity or water in our information age.