Privacy is also terribly important in our daily lives, if not a bit contradictory to some of our behaviors. [Some of us] post on facebook and tweet every minute of our lives; heck I am on pintrest for what is (probably) an unreasonable amount of time. All of these sites compete to have their users spend the most amount of time, upload the most content and spread their data as wide as possible. We are essentially creating a digital version of ourselves to share with our personal (or in some cases, very public) world. I happen to think this is very interesting on many levels. There exists an increasingly wide-ranging expanse of sites that cater to our deepest interests, feeding off of our data (sometimes without our knowledge) only to sell it back to us for additional consumption. What types of rights can we really expect for our created digital worlds? We riot over facebook privacy changes and worry that employers are using our digital fingerprints in their hiring decisions. Why shouldn't they? If we've gone to the effort of creating our own personal digital world, and we've hit the "publish" button, that information is meant to spread and be shared. (Theoretically, on most of our social networks, we can update privacy settings and monitor our audiences.) Does scrolling through a privacy agreement to check a box at the bottom really constitute informed consent? We are responsible for our own digital fingerprint; we must own up to the actions of our digital selves. But can we expect that our digital privacy is entitled to the same protections as our basic human rights? I suppose we will have to see how this plays out; and it may be sooner than you think.
Patents currently exist to allow the creator of a biotechnological product, for instance a drug product, to have exclusive access to distribution of that technology for many years. Some of these patents allow the initial term to be continually extended as long as the company shows proof of change of design. This has led to companies making minor adjustments to lucrative formulas in order to continue to hold exclusive rights and disallow competition. These are regulations that are designed to protect innovation. I am clearly not the only one thinking about reforms to the system. The recent supreme court hearings provide sufficient evidence of that. But I wonder at what seems to be a systemic issue within many of our regulations. Many fail to be flexible enough to anticipate future technologies. Arguably, writing such a policy could be a nightmare, but
In the end will big companies have the right to claim human genes engineered by nature and elucidated by human ingenuity? If we consider privacy a basic human right, then does it not extend to all aspects of our lives, insofar as they are not inflicting harm? But what can we consider as a personal aspect? When does extracted DNA or tissue cease to belong to its progenitor? We have already said (in the US anyway) that informed consent is required for all tissue donors and subjects involved in clinical trials. After informed consent, subjects are not entitled to profits from future discoveries, yet corporations are entitled to patent biological samples such as DNA fragments when they have used novel methods to identify properties in those areas. This is a major source of funding in Academia and Industry, but it also enables the patent holder to enlist a variety of usage and licence agreements and thereby profit from the original discovery for years beyond its initial development. Industry claims this fuels innovation. We give a similar informed consent when we use social media and other sites. At the same time as companies press for regulation, we are setting up open-access journals and classes to spread knowledge, and new sites are constantly springing up giving users access to "bootlegged" content. In the end will we decide how we use this rich network of data, how we protect it? or will we allow others to decide for us?