Former US ambassador warns about data tracking, says the US is making China's surveillance job easier
Karen Kornbluh: Collecting and selling data poses a risk to national securityBy Alfonso Maruccia
Big quote: The Federal Trade Commission asked for opinions about data economy and commercial surveillance, and former US ambassador Karen Kornbluh described the situation with grave and unambiguous words.
The Federal Trade Commission recently hosted a public forum on Commercial Surveillance and Lax Data Security Practices, an online-only event where experts and industry insiders could make their voices heard. Among the most disapproving positions, Karen Kornbluh had some scathing words to say about the modern "data driven" economy and its consequences on security.
A former US Ambassador at the OECD during Barack Obama's presidency, Kornbluh is an expert on communications policy and international trade and is currently serving as Director of the Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative at the German Marshall Fund think tank for transatlantic cooperation. During the FTC hearing, Kornbluh slammed overabundant data tracking and collecting as a real threat to United States' national security.
According to Kornbluh, there is a loophole in the proliferation of consumer data as a huge trove of information about American citizens is already floating around the Internet; there is a $12 billion surveillance-for-hire industry profiting on information about current or former military personnel including web searches, family members, home addresses and even GPS coordinates, while the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center has already raised an alarm about China's collection of genomic and other healthcare data.
In Kornbluh's words, data driven economy and big tech companies are making the job of China and other US adversaries "easier." As the recent Supreme Court decision on Roe vs. Wade shows, the diplomat stated, it's now clear that this personal data floating around about vulnerable people poses a real and even physical danger. The FTC should strictly regulate so-called dark patterns and other deceptive online practices, while allowing parents to delete their children's data to "reset the algorithm" that feed the content machine.
Furthermore, the FTC should oblige corporations to perform due diligence before selling or sharing personal data they collect, while the receiving companies should have legal responsibilities for feeding the aforementioned data to cybercriminals. Private lives should not be criminalized anymore, Kornbluh concluded, as sensitive information (such online search for an abortion clinic) should be deleted promptly by Google and other Internet companies.
Kornbluh position seems to be in line with recent FTC moves against sensitive data abuse and White House plans for future reforms. Other participants in the public forum also expressed their concerns about what can be described as an unfolding "data privacy crisis," in the words of Caitriona Fitzgerald, deputy director at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).