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“Data privacy” is one of those words that takes away all emotions. It’s like flat soda. At least America’s basic data is a flesh and blood reaction to failures in protecting privacy.

This week, a senior official in the American hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church resigned after being told by a news site that it contained data from his cellphone that would appear to the administrator using the LGBTQ dating app Grinder and regularly visit gay bars. Journalists have had three cessations of data about his mobile phone movements and digital trails for three years and have been able to return to where he went.

I know people will have complex feelings about this. Some of you believe that it is acceptable to use any means necessary to determine when a public person is breaking his or her vows, including the priest who may have broken the vow of celibacy.

For me, though, this is not about one man. This is about a structural failure that allows real-time data on American movements to come first and be used without our knowledge or true consent. This case illustrates the tangible consequences of the large and largely unregulated data-cutting industry in the United States.

The reality in the United States is that there are some legal or other restrictions that prevent companies from compiling specific locations where we go and sell that information to someone. This data is in the hands of the companies we deal with on a daily basis, such as Facebook and Google, and information with rental intermediaries with whom we can never have direct contact.

This data is often packaged in bulk and is anonymous in theory, but as the story of the Catholic official shows, it can often be traced to individuals. The existence of this data in virtually such a sharp volume Each Creates conditions for abuse that can affect evil and virtue alike.

The Internal Revenue Service has purchased commercially available location data from the mobile phones of people hunting for financial criminals (apparently ineffectively). U.S. Defense contractors and military agencies have obtained location data from applications that people use to pray or hang up their shelves. Stalkers have found targets by getting information on people’s locations from mobile phone companies. When Americans go to rallies or protests, political campaigns buy the information of those present to target them through messages.

I am excited that there are still no federal laws prohibiting the collection or use of any data collection. If I had made a take-to-do list for Congress, such sanctions would be at the top of my agenda. (I am encouraged by some congressional resolutions and pending state legislation to prohibit aspects of personal location data collection or use.)

Most Americans now understand that our phones are detecting our activities, even if we don’t know all the details. And I know how easy it can be to feel angry or just think, “So what?” I want to resist both of those reactions.

Disappointment doesn’t help anyone, though, I often feel that way too. Losing control over our data was not inevitable. It was a choice – or rather a failure for years to think through the results of the digital age by individuals, governments and corporations. Now we can choose a different path.

And if you believe that there is nothing to hide from you and your family, I suspect that if a teenager or a spouse has to go somewhere they will feel followed by a lot of people. What we have now is probably worse. Potentially thousands of times a day, our phones report our locations, and we can’t really stop it. (Still, here are the steps we can take to end hell.)

The New York Times editorial board wrote in 2019 that if the U.S. government had ordered Americans to provide constant information about their locations, the public and members of Congress would revolt. Yet, over time, we have collectively and sensibly agreed to voluntarily hand over this data.

We benefit from this location-crop system, including real-time traffic apps and nearby stores that send us coupons. But we should not accept constant and increasingly aggressive monitoring of our movements in return.