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Dragnet Nation

curtain "In our data-saturated economy, privacy is becoming a luxury good," writes Julia Angwin in The New York Times (3/4/14). Julia, author of Dragnet Nation, points to all the time and money she’s spent — "more than $2,200 and countless hours" — to try to protect her privacy. Her purchases include "a $230 service" to encrypt her data, "a $35 privacy filter" to prevent people from viewing her laptop screen in public, and "a $420 subscription" for secure Internet connections.

Such purchases are necessary, Julia says, because we pay for "free" services such as Gmail, with our data. Google scans our Gmail "to offer advertisers a chance to promote their items," while Facebook "allows marketers to turn your status updates into ads for their products." Beyond advertising, "our data is … used to charge people different prices based on their personal information" and "provide different search results to different people based on their political interests."

Julia also compares the privacy situation to "the early days of the organic food movement, when buying organic often meant trekking to inconveniently located, odd-smelling stores, and paying high rates for misshapen apples." Eventually, due to popular demand, "organic food entered the mainstream of American life." Advocating for affordable privacy for everyone, as well as oversight of privacy services, Julia sees another food-industry parallel in the form of government-enforced safety standards "for our data."