Privacy Advocate Richard Holober on the Tech Backlash of 2017 

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price-sensitive consumers are. For hotels and airlines, I get shown certain prices, and then they go up. With Tor, the anonymized browser (he uses), the low airfare suddenly reappears.

X: Are you or your organization involved in efforts to make technology work better for consumers, citizens, students, patients, government leaders, non-profits, etc? What is that mission, and how is it going?

RH: The Consumer Federation of California is a leading consumer protection advocate. We have introduced and supported numerous bills to require tech companies to protect consumer privacy, to democratize the internet, and restore access to civil justice for consumers who are ripped-off by tech and other businesses. We have won some restrictions in California against computer monitoring, against improper use of telematics to track driver behavior, to limit police seizures of contents of cell phones, to protect online privacy for minors and students, and have defeated attempts to roll back medical and telephone privacy rights. We have also fought to restore for Californians the repealed FCC ISP privacy regulations (AB 375 – Chau) which has so far been stopped by the combined wealth of the telecom, cable and tech industries.

X: Have changing public attitudes about the tech industry made your work or your mission easier or harder?

RH: Easier as more people realize that the tech industry has its dark side, but within the Capitol, much of the time corporate dollars overpower the citizens’ demands for fairness.

X: Has the public perception of tech improved in some ways? If so, how and why?

RH: No

X: If you think public perception about the tech industry turned for the worse in 2017, what should the industry do to rebuild trust in 2018?

RH: Abandon its opposition to every proposed law or regulation that protects consumers, workers and the community.

Standards in the EU, Canada, and elsewhere show that to have an open and free online economy does not require snooping, eavesdropping, and other privacy invasions the U.S. permits.

Editor’s note: This story is part of a year-end series exploring the current public mood about technology and its effect on individuals and society.]

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