Will CCPA protect my privacy?



Hello, this is Carolyn. I am your average American citizen, middle class, with a full-time job and a family. I use the internet for convenience and it is part of my everyday world. I read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, keep my professional calendar on Google, do financial transactions with two different banks, and use a lot of email (that’s your clue that I’m over 30). 

I am interested in Artificial Intelligence (AI) because I am aware that it can be used for good, such as helping teachers. However, it’s clear that “it” is involved in ways in my life that I thought inanimate data should not be with my personal digital information. It is creepy when I buy some dog food at Centinela Food, and then an ad for that company shows up on a free game I’m playing on my phone. (I know, I shouldn’t be playing games... but I wonder if games attempt to fill the time in a sort of meditation. That’s a different column!) Many of my friends have commented that it seems like their phones are “listening” when they are having conversations, because words they have used appear in their Facebook feeds.

I live in California. Today, when I turned on my beloved laptop and launched Google Chrome, I received a pleasant invitation to update my settings to protect my privacy. This is due to the new law that went into effect today, the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA. As much as I want to do this, I immediately felt queasy.   If I turn all of these settings off, that means none of my data will be shared, right? But what if I’m driving and I need to find a place and I need to use the Map app? Will it require me to pull over, go to my phone’s settings, turn on the Map (or ”Location” or whatever it’s called on each device!!!) -- and then will that make that particular trip public, or all of my history public when I change a setting? And that is just the first layer of trying to figure this out.

I love the Map app. I used to love using a paper map book called the Thomas Guide. It broke up my city into an intricate grid. It made you feel smarter, figuring out where you were going, anticipating where you needed to make a driving decision. It kept you engaged, and more present, when you actively searched while you drove. I suppose it created frustration, too... and that is why I love the Map app. Frustration gone (except when it doesn’t update within microseconds and I miss a turn).

Getting back to the new CCPA law in California: it is quite incredible that this law was passed. Only Maine has a similar law. Some people in our federal government complain that this law should be controlled on a national level. The commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, Joseph Simons, is advocating for this, and there appears to be agreement that it needs to be done . And then, I presume, our elected officials get bogged down in the same way that I did when answering questions just on one website, Google. I think I have to check with all the other websites that collect data on me too!