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'Privacy Is Becoming a Luxury': What Data Leaks Are Like for the Poor


The intersections of wealth and data privacy are explored in this VICE feature, revealing that the poorest members of society are more vulnerable to the long term consequences of data breaches

VICE journalist, Elizabeth Brico, explores the intersections between wealth and data privacy in the United States by speaking to individuals affected by a privacy breach. As a result of human error, residents of the Seattle Housing Authority in Washington mistakenly received an email containing names, addresses, emails and tenant code numbers for over 500 clients of a low-income housing program.

Interviewing individuals whose information was shared, Brico explores the ways in which the poorest members of society are both more vulnerable to, and severely impacted by, data breaches. In addition to having less control over their data, Brico notes, low-income households are also less able to recover from the financial and legal consequences of identity fraud. What’s more, the most vulnerable in society are not as well–equipped to hold organizations to account when their data is breached.

Low-income Americans often find themselves trading personal information for access to benefits ranging from food to housing to childcare… But when a privacy breach occurs, it raises the question: what exactly are the poor giving up in order to survive, and what are the potential consequences?

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