BUY NOW! COMPLETELY SAFE! Free Market Solution to Data PrivacyIn a pre-computer world, if you lost a financial report or even your checkbook, you'd have few problems recovering. A quick call to the bank or the company involved and it was cleared up. But, everything changed when computers came along. They began linking all those scraps of paper into huge databases. Your e-data began taking adventure trips to exotic locations that you could only dream of. Now when you lose a piece of paper - a check, a receipt, a bill, an ID card - you've lost much more than a scrap of paper, you've lost the keys to your very identity - and you don't even have a souvenir from Bangalore to show for it.
A tsunami of data and identity theft is washing over our country. As each report of a stolen laptop or hacking incident shows, we have to worry that thieves have the keys to our virtual financial empire and there isn't a damn thing we can do about it. To make matters worse, the crapweasels who lost the data aren't responsible for paying for the damages, you are. Clearly this problem cries out for a solution, but Congress has been pretty busy passing empty resolutions and stopping people from getting married. Apparently, this little problem isn't high on the priority list. Kinda like bird flu or secure borders. I've been told on good authority - the President of the US no less - that all that legisilatin' is just plain hard work. I guess we'll have to wait until someone steals Jenna's driver's license and she's unable to buy a round at the local watering hole.
I've been looking inside the box to see if I could find a solution to this vexing problem, but everyone else in the box wasn't thinking at all. So I decided to think outside the box, although I wince when I use that phrase. In the embryonic form, my idea is full of holes, but it does have the virtue of being different.
I say let's apply the simple laws of free market capitalism to the problem. If we wave those words grand words in front of our politicians they'll start sniffing at it like a pack of dogs on the trail of a hamburger. The potential for money being made? Hey, they're all for that. It's what they do.
So gather round, it works like this:
Think of your personal data not as something, say, a credit bureau owns. Think of it as something you own. After all, you create the data, they only harvest it. Using the current data-harvester logic is like saying a farmer isn't entitled to pay because he merely grows the crops, it's the migrant farm workers who should drive the gold plated SUV. After all, they harvest the crop. Other than migrant farm workers, I haven't seen anyone clambering to climb on that bus and I'm wondering why we're riding on it.
No, we need a pay-as-you-go solution that exempts no one, not political parties, charities, religious institutions, nor the government itself. If they want to sell or user your data, they must pay a royalty to you. Using free market principles, the extra cost will force the harvesters to make better decisions about how valuable your data is. Its price would rise and fall on the open market, much like prices for any commodity does today based on its value to someone. High value, high cost. Low value, low cost.
For example, there's no use in selling a woman's name to a Viagra pusher if the woman can't take the stuff. If Viagra has to pay more, they'll become much more discriminating about what kind of crap they email to said woman. So, those 300 emails a day about Viagra? Poof. Two hundred invitations to refinance her mortgage? Gone. Her 15th Harry & David catalog this week? A mere memory. Simply put, if data users have to pay for your information, it'll cost them more and use it less.
This plan has another advantage - tax revenue. We could apply the revenue to partially recoup Dub's big tax giveaways - there's got to be some way of financing someone else's civil war and this could be it. Certainly he couldn't argue against taxing a raw material that's like corn, or heavens, oil. If he did, you could bet that corn and oil producers would be howling for tax exemptions louder than your local Baptist church.
And just to be fair, let's tax the income from the payments to you too. I think that's pretty fair as tax proposals go. It isn't even a regressive tax. The poorer someone is, the less valuable their data is. They'd end up paying no more in income tax because they'd sell less data access for cheaper prices.
Another selling point for this scheme is to incentivize - there's another of those wince words - data processors to protect your data as well as they do their own. After all, GM seems more than able to protect their corporate bank accounts. They don't care about yours account because they don't lose anything if it's compromised. Change that paradigm and I'll bet security would suddenly increase exponetially.
So there you have it. Let's not solve the problem by crying to lock the data up, let's just fling the doors to the barn wide open! Simple, easy, and cheap and it's just crazy enough to work.
Kinda like invading Iraq is the solution to stopping terror.
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, June 20, 2006