[Prospect] Meet the Stalkers

Behind the mysterious world of data brokers, who have access to a lot more of your life than you think. [...]

Yet from the moment you swipe your rewards card at CVS or update Facebook, there are companies you don’t even know exist—often referred to as “data brokers”—watching, taking notes, and connecting the dots between the virtual you and the real one, using sophisticated technology to create vast and detailed personal profiles of hundreds of millions of American consumers. [...]

The real solution may be the rethinking of what public and private mean in the Internet age, what freedom of speech means in a world of corporate surveillance. In light of the tragedy in Boston, security experts and civil-liberty advocates have thrust the specter of video cameras on every street corner back into the national conversation. The debate is a stark one: Is the benefit of constant public scrutiny worth the cost to our privacy? [...]