Who owns your data?
It's a question that is quickly becoming a political one, with legislators in California and Vermont passing data privacy laws that aim to establish individual rights around data and federal lawmakers discussing what a national privacy law would look like. For Roger McNamee, a storied Silicon Valley investor and early Mark Zuckerberg mentor who has recently become one of the company's most outspoken critics, it's a question that 2020 election candidates need to debate at the national level.
McNamee believes the most important question around data privacy is about determining when it's legal for companies to share and sell data without customers' knowledge or consent.
"Why is it okay for credit card companies to sell financial records?" McNamee said at the South by Southwest conference in Austin over the weekend. "Why is it legal for cell companies to sell location data? Why is it legal for companies that make apps for health and wellness to sell or trade our data? Why is it legal for anybody on the web to transact in our web history? Why is it legal to collect data on kids under 18, much less sell it?"
McNamee doesn't have the answer to these questions, but he insists it's important that we start asking them to determine where we as a society think the boundaries should be drawn around personal data. For instance, you might be fine with your credit card company recording your financial transactions, but not with the company selling your private information to someone else for their own profit. "It's obviously okay to give your location to Uber," he says. "It's not okay for for Uber to then take the location history and trade it to somebody else."