Standing naked in the world

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Thomas Fancher

Shocking title! You are not physically without clothes in public, but your digital identity is visible and unprotected. In a way, you are standing nude in the digital world. You need clothes, that is to say, protection to absolutely control what information companies collect, use, store, sell or give away. Your digital identity, whether it represents you absolutely accurately or is totally inaccurate, is as much your own property as is your physical body.

The time has come when Congress must pass a simple law to protect our digital identities. That law would overwrite all current “legal agreements” which are not read, or comprehensible if read, by most people.

It would require that all companies and organizations (political, religious, or whatever) holding information regarding a person identify what data is currently held, the reasons for collecting it and where that data has been shared or sold. Each company must obtain explicit permission regarding what may be retained. Otherwise, data must be destroyed. Each company must get explicit permission as to what future data may be gathered, shared, sold, bought or given away. Theft of personal data must be considered legally equivalent to both property theft and physical assault. This law would prevent companies tracking both physical location and access of information without explicit permission. There would be no blanket permission regarding an individual’s usage of the internet.

Despite appearances, services provided by Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Amazon and others are not free. Companies profit from data they collect about you. Advertisements are generated based on your seeking information, or what you write. The control of data works the other direction, too, as censorship based on data constitutes an attack on the First Amendment. Targeted advertising is annoying. The millions of dollars made by Facebook, and others, comes from selling information for targeting advertisements.

Exceptions would exist regarding collection and storage of documented truthful information for security, history, and journalism.

Fifty years of computers merged with communications technology has created a monster. Current computer technology is an Achilles’ heel that endangers our country. It is time to tame it. This technology can be useful. It would be possible to develop a new generation of computers that would securely store and transmit information. That knowledge comes from my having worked inside the technical consultant to the USAF for development of ballistic missiles. In a way, it actually is rocket science. Some knowledge dates back 50 years, but is still applicable.

To date, technical papers I have given to Congressmen Doc Hastings and Dan Newhouse seem to have been ignored. Our country could end computer malware and cyber warfare, but it would require expert professionals working with American companies.

The internet is public property. Resolving the vulnerabilities would take a few years, but would actually result in long-term cost savings for government, corporations and individuals.

This column may be viewed as a threat by Facebook and numerous other companies. But people are not their property to be used. Information gathered about you and your family, friends, political thinking, et cetera is available to be used to harm you, and others. We deserve to be protected from this harm.

Thomas Fancher is a Moses Lake resident and avid letter writer to the Columbia Basin Herald. He can be reached at tech2116@nwi.net.

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