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Consumer rights are civil rights

In an era of rampant misinformation and powerful corporations, who’s looking out for the consumer? Marta L. Tellado, president and CEO of Consumer Reports, joins host Krys Boyd to discuss the data breaches, digital spying concerns and product failures that are becoming more common, what you can do to protect yourself, and how you can lobby your politicians for help. Her book is “Buyer Aware: Harnessing Our Consumer Power for a Safe, Fair, and Transparent Marketplace.

Bonus Blog: 3 Things you didn’t know about companies collecting your online data 

We do a lot of online shopping these days. It’s easy to search through endless Amazon products to be delivered on the same day (which comes at a cost) or get lost scrolling through suspiciously cheap Shein clothes. But every consumer’s click is an opportunity for companies to collect information. 

Marta Tellado, president and CEO of Consumer Reports, is on a mission to make people aware of these dangerous company practices and know their rights as consumers. She talked with us about all kinds of privacy and data concerns that online shoppers face, including a few nuggets of wisdom you probably weren’t aware of. 

1. Companies are allowed to capture the information you enter online, even if you don’t hit submit or check out your cart. 

 “You go on a website, you’re shopping, and it happens to be a new website… you go in to check your name and it already fills it in for you automatically,” Tellado explains. “That just gives you a sense of they know a lot more about you than you know about this platform.” 

Although there are plenty of protections and rights for traditional consumers, a lot of these don’t fit in the digital world. Tellado says that when companies lack transparency and accountability for their actions online, it diminishes consumer power. 

2. Companies asking for consent about the cookies they track online isn’t an effective solution for the lack of consumer privacy. 

When we visit a new website, we’re often asked if we’d like to accept cookies. If we say no, we may get a pop-up asking us to be more specific about the kinds of online tracking we want to opt-out of, or the site asks us to take some extra steps to opt-out of cookies. 

This makes it difficult for consumers to take control of their online privacy. 

“They’re asking you a million questions and they’re putting all the burden on you,” Tellado says about companies online. “If you know what you want, you’re going to race right through that and say accept everything and move on. And that’s just another tactic that is based on understanding what our behavior is online.” 

3. There’s no easy way to access the complete file that companies have on you and your information. 

In the European Union, the Philippines and Argentina, consumers have the right to be forgotten, which means they have the right to request that past links and private information be removed from search engines under specific circumstances. 

In the U.S., there are no federal laws that give consumers this right or the right to access any file of information that a company may have on you. 

“It is made quite difficult, and that has to change,” Tellado says. “We need to be the owners of our personal data. We need to be the owners of our health data. And that’s a scary thought when personal information like that is being shared.” 

The first step to protecting your rights as a consumer? Stay informed and knowledgeable about what companies are doing with your information. Listen to our podcast above to learn more and hear Tellado’s full conversation with Krys Boyd.

—Cristin Espinosa