Internet Privacy in Judaism

What customer information can we collect and sell?

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Of course there is a difference between statistical information about a person's purchases and browsing behavior, on the one hand, and gossip about his personal habits, on the other. The sources do not categorically condemn the collection of personal information about Internet usage, especially given the great commercial value of this information. But by impressing on us the human problems inherent in situations of surveillance, they introduce a new and valuable dimension to the discussion. Merchants and consumers alike should ask themselves: Is this disclosure really necessary?

We began by discussing data-sharing from the point of view consent, focusing on what human beings want. But a Torah perspective reminds us that we must also concern ourselves with who human beings are. The character of the individual and of society as a whole requires the shelter of modesty for its development, and an environment of constant surveillance and information gathering has the potential to undermine this shelter. While Internet information-gathering certainly has commercial value, we must be mindful of its humanistic and spiritual costs.

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Rabbi Asher Meir

Asher Meir received his Ph.D. in economics from MIT, and received his rabbinic ordination from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate after 12 years of study at Israeli Rabbinic Institutions.