Opinion: Privacy is a fiction in the Internet age. A priest’s case proves it.

Opinion by Washington Post Editorial Board

The top administrator of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops resigned last month after a newsletter used data from his cellphone to confirm his use of the dating app Grindr and track his movements to gay bars. Questions about hypocrisy aside, this invasion of an individual’s intimate life should be alarming when it happens to anyone — yet it could easily happen to everyone.

The problem of information privacy can seem abstract to the everyday American. Sometimes, the harms of unregulated data collection look negligible: Who cares if an advertiser is able to target a particular type of shoe to a particular type of person? The more insidious possibilities, meanwhile, can appear hypothetical: Would someone really purchase anonymous location data, go to the trouble of re-identifying its subject and then exploit what they find to publicly harass? Now we know that the answer is yes. The consequences of Congress’s failure to pass federal legislation governing how companies collect, process and sell the reams of data available in the Internet age are starker than ever.


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