Companies are observing nearly every move you make and selling your personal data for billions of dollars—and Washington appears helpless to stop them, the Los Angeles Times reports. Whether it's your smart phone, cable box, Facebook page, or video game, devices are amassing reams of data on your location, viewing habits, personal tastes, and much more. "Essentially, each of us is being tailed," says a digital rights advocacy lawyer.
Experts say it's all about the money. Yahoo earns almost all of its annual $6 billion income from online advertising—much of it "personalized"—and one analyst says that location-based services such as Groupon will mushroom into an $8.3 billion business in three years. State and federal lawmakers have hammered out regulations to rein in personal data collection, but so far none have passed. Meanwhile, some experts fear that people will stop expressing themselves online: "It's too much of a feeling of being constantly watched and judged," says one.