The “Coach Sue” character in Glee used ruthless but hilarious commentary to make politically incorrect points about the social issues of the day. John Oliver is a real-life nerdy version of Coach Sue — a comedian who tells brutal truths about major issues on his HBO show called “Last Week Tonight.” He has won multiple awards for his satire of in-depth news investigations, and last week’s target was data brokers. John explained how these companies collect personal electronic information and sell it to others. In one disturbing part of the show, John featured a local news organization’s visit to a young woman’s home after purchasing a list of patients who were pregnant in Raleigh, North Carolina from a data broker. Health privacy wonks already know well what John is trying to expose — that sensitive healthcare information is not protected by HIPAA when it is in the hands of non-healthcare organizations (like marketing firms). After showing how easy it is to get and sell consumer data, John Oliver declared that the United States is in dire need of a federal consumer data privacy law. He explained that Congress is unlikely to pass such a law because congressional campaigns are dependent on being able to buy data from brokers about voters. So, naturally, John (in a very Coach Sue-like move) blackmailed Congress by describing the information he was able to get about their embarrassing internet searches. We will see if that leads us to the passage of a new federal consumer data privacy law, or if we are the only People that watched John Oliver last week.
April 18, 2022 | 3 min read
April 18, 2022
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