Consumers Have Lost Control Over How Personal Information Is Collected And Used By Companies

Consumers Have Lost Control Over How Personal Information Is Collected And Used By Companies

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According to a recent survey conducted by the PEW Research Center, “91% of [American] adults in the survey ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that consumers have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies.” Additionally, “88% of [American] adults ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that it would be very difficult to remove inaccurate information about them online” (Madden). In the United States, the individual has few resources to manage what can be seen about them online and what personal information companies can collect.
In Europe, on the other hand, the law provides a stricter protection of personal information that is shared online. In a recent case decided by the Court of Justice of the European Union, Google was required to remove Mario Costeja Gonzalez’ name from a search result that listed his name alongside his foreclosed home. Under European law, personal data, which is defined as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person,” must be “collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a way incompatible with those purposes” (“Google Spain” 4,7). Mr. Gonzalez claimed that the reference to the foreclosure on his home, which was collected to advertise a “real-estate auction” of his home in 1998, “was now entirely irrelevant” (15). In successfully getting his name removed from Google search results, Mr Gonzalez was able to restrict the “decisive role” that “search engines play … in the overall dissemination of data”; thus, he was able to protect access to his information from all but a select few of the general public who already knew about the foreclosure (36).
However, in ostensibly restricting access to the information, Mr. Gonzalez w...


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...only held good by allowing him to charge a price for use (5); thus, there is an incentive to properly maintained the good and the increased price decreases the ability for congestion as less people want to use the good.
Since personal information is generally thought of as a public good, it may be causing externalities that can be minimized by excluding access to it where it is possible to exclude access. On the internet, It is increasingly possible to suppress the flow of information. For example, “e-mail that is encrypted so that it can only be decrypted by its intended readers is ‘excludable’ information” (Shapiro 9). The regulation of search engines also suppresses the flow of information as, without an ability to sort through the massive amount of information on the internet, it is practically impossible to find information that one did not have prior knowledge

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