By Kenny Choi

MENLO PARK (KPIX 5) – For the average person, it’s extremely difficult to know how and to what extent your data collected online is being used by various companies.

The renewed focus on Facebook, amid testimony to Congress from a whistleblower this week, is bringing more attention to what needs to happen next.

Bay Area real estate mogul Alastair Mactaggart spearheaded legislation in 2020 that created the newly formed California Privacy Protection Agency and established some of the strongest consumer privacy laws in the country.

“There are some really strong new rules. You have to now blur my location within 250 acres. You can’t track me to the synagogue or the church or the mosque or the gay bar, you can only know that I’m in Oakland or I’m in San Francisco.  It’s a huge difference that that’s going to happen now, because of the new laws,” said Mactaggart, who founded the group Californians for Consumer Privacy.

Each search and click through your computer or phone, can transfer personal data to servers that can then be stored, and sometimes sold.

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“For anyone to argue that an average person is fully cognizant of how their data, how much of their data is being gathered, let alone how it’s fully being used,” said Santa Clara University computer science professor Ahmed Amer.

“There’s just a huge amount of information that can be used against us in a lot of different ways and it comes down to we generate it on ourselves most of the time,” said Netenrich principal threat hunter John Bambenek.

Some are pressuring congress to pass privacy protections that stop companies from profiling youth with targeted ads.

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“We want protections to apply to teens. We want sites not be able to turn a blind eye to children and teens and their services, as we saw Facebook was doing,” said Ariel Fox Johnson of Common Sense Media

“The question becomes what information are you okay with others having access to, and because it’s all obscure and in the abstract, most people don’t think about it,” said Bambenek.

Privacy advocates are calling for more transparency asking social media companies to release more internal research, including data collection and retention.