Wrong target. When you subscribe with the phone company you sign-off on the "I agree to..." notice regarding the collection of your data for business purposes, however grudgingly you may do so.
As jilocasin points out, the issue is not the companies that collect, and eventually expire that data, it is the government that re-purposes and infinitely retains it, without our knowledge or consent.
The question is: How do you boycott the government?
The courts have already established that there are numerous venues within which you have no expectation of privacy. What is missing in this discussion is the implied contract that is associated with your public data, specifically that your public data is casual, random, limited, and segregated.
It may be easiest to illustrate those with example:
It is understood that if you venture into public you will be observed. No one expects privacy in that setting. You may encounter the same people in the same places, at the same times, or randomly at different times and venues, but you would become suspicious if you encountered the same person everywhere you went. You would probably suspect stalking.
If that person recorded which lights turned on in the windows of your house, the order they turned on and their duration, when you opened and closed window shades, the time you entered and exited your house, where you went, what you bought, who you met, and so on, you would necessarily be worried. All that information is public, but it has crossed a threshold of limited, casual and random.
It is understood that this behavior implies nefarious intent. Even if that person is a law enforcement officer, we have historically required reasonable suspicion of behavior, or a court order authorizing their collection of your public data on such a scale.
If a store owner tracks your purchases to provide better service and try to better meet your needs, that is laudable. If he starts following you around the shopping mall to see what else you buy, that rapidly degrades into creepy behavior.
We expect that grocery stores will track our grocery habits, the phone company will monitor our calling patterns, the credit card company will analyze typical and non-typical purchases to prevent fraud. Although all this data is ostensibly public, implied in this understanding is the segregation of that data. If the phone company started acquiring our grocery records, we would demand to know why, and act to put a stop to it.
In order for the government to carry out its appointed tasks, it must obtain from its citizens specific personal data, that if disclosed, could result in loss of harm to that citizen. We entrust this information with the understanding that those in authority will take all necessary safeguards to protect it from disclosure or unauthorized use.
When that same authority accumulates all our public data, from all of the available sources, combines that the private data of our financial and tax records, medical records, licenses, legal filings, driving records, political and religions affiliations, and all other disclosures, then it has far exceeded the authority issued by its citizenry.
That it should then use this unprecedented store of information to identify and target individuals for propaganda and behavioral modification, as well as provide policing agencies the ability to observe and analyze the totality of every citizen's life for any and all activities that may be used to incriminate those individuals, for the entire duration of their lives, then it has crossed the boundaries of implied consent of both the public and private stores of data, and has ventured into realm of treason against its people.
Techdirt has not posted any stories submitted by Nicholas Batik.