Tal Z. Zarsky


Our personal information is constantly being recorded, stored and analyzed. Commercial entities watch our every action, storing this data and analyzing it in conjunction with information acquired from third parties. These entities use this knowledge to their benefit (and at times, our detriment) by discriminating between various customers on the basis of this personal information. At the same time, in the media market, large conglomerates can now provide specifically tailored content to individual customers on the basis of such data, thus potentially controlling their perspectives and impairing their autonomy. The expanding use of data mining applications, which enable vendors to search for hidden patterns and associations in a fast and efficient manner, only makes matters worse and accommodates the commercial entities in carrying out these activities. We obviously have a problem. The first step in its solution is to create public awareness of these problematic practices and their possible outcomes. Focusing public opinion on the important issues is only the beginning, however. Public opinion, which is easily influenced and at times wanders to other areas of interest, is insufficient to cope with the complex and elusive problems of information collection and analysis. Regulation must be implemented in order to protect consumers from these detrimental practices. There is no shortage of proposed solutions to the problems of information privacy. Prominent legal scholars, governmental committees, and even the commercial entities themselves have proposed regulatory schemes to overcome the problems created by the gathering of personal information. In some countries, and in certain areas of law, actual legislation is now being enforced with varying levels of success and compliance. In addition, several countries have created executive branches vested with the authority to regulate and supervise the use and collection of personal information. The solutions provided are diverse and range from self-regulation to the implementation of strict regulation and governmental intervention. They draw from various fields of law and at times require changes in the technological infrastructure facilitating the interaction between the individuals and the information collectors. However, the debate as to the ideal solution to these problems continues, while the changing technological landscape makes choosing an effective solution even harder.

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