67. Right to Privacy Over Personal Information

People should not be required to pay companies to keep their private information private. By default, it should be common practice to keep the names, telephone numbers, addresses, e-mail addresses and other personal information away from everybody except those individuals necessary to conduct the transaction or otherwise necessary for providing proper services. People should not need to pay the telephone company, for example, to prevent their telephone numbers from being published in the phone book. Companies should be required to do whatever it takes to keep such information confidential and secure. However, the original owners of this personal information (i.e., the actual people to who this information relates), should have the right to sell any or all of their own personal information to third parties.

Telephone companies would be required to keep a database of telephone numbers of people who have expressly permitted unsolicited telephone advertisements, promotions, propaganda, notices, announcements, commercials, courtesy calls, etc. Telemarketers would be required to check such lists before making calls. Because few people would actively permit such calls, to make these calls more attractive to people, regulations could be structured in a way that compensates the residents for accepting such calls. For example, for each telemarketing call a resident takes, a certain amount could be deducted from his monthly telephone bill. In essence, accepting telemarketing calls would directly help pay that person’s telephone bill. Of course, a resident hanging up as soon as he realizes that a telemarketer is calling would not qualify as ‘accepting a call’. Telephone companies would be encouraged, but not required to offer this service, but if they do offer it they would be required to keep track of all of this and would be responsible for listing all such calls and credits on the customer’s telephone bill every month. Perhaps, if this system becomes widespread and mature enough, customers could begin to set their own prices for accepting telemarketing calls and they could even choose which telemarketers to accept.

In a similar way, things like genetic information, spending habits, credit card numbers, license plate numbers, or other kinds of personal information should also be allowed to be sold at market rates with the permission of their original owners. This information would be sold at market prices and any unauthorized use of the information would be treated as theft, and restitution would be paid to the victims/owners. The right to sell this information would not apply, of course, in cases where the information is necessary for business transactions, verification, security purposes, routine proceedings, etc. Such entities would be allowed to the free access of such information for legitimate purposes.

All personal information gained in any way, or through any transaction or medium should be treated as confidential and should be protected unless permission has been granted by the original owners to sell, give, or have free use of that information. Anyone who misuses this information or divulges it to any unauthorized party should be very, very severely punished. This is necessary to preserve the public’s trust in the idea that private information is ensured.

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