DID ANYONE REALLY think there wouldn’t be a price to pay for all the disruptive changes that we’ve made an indispensable part of our lives for the past 15 years?

As long as it’s free, social media seems like a harmless idea. Now that we’re aware of the lack of privacy and data security, we are learning how hacks, leaks and exploitation of our personal information is disrupting our lives.

There are dozens of disruptive changes coming down the road that will require all new rules and regulations to protect us from the effects of unregulated monopolies.

Calls are being made to regulate the industry and impose consumer protections. We now realize the giants in the industry are using data surveillance as a means of a business model for profit.

Is this intrusion acceptable as a price for use of their products? Does it matter that the collection of data is often skillful and not always obvious? Do we need more transparency?

Are consumers damaged by having their personal information shared with other businesses? Because in many ways, they may derive valuable benefits.

Life is changing every day, and social media and other online companies are profiting off the data of Americans — their online behavior, personal messages, contact and personal information, and more — all while leaving consumers in the dark.

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee members John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, have introduced a bipartisan bill that would give Americans greater power to protect their online privacy from companies that sell users’ attention to advertisers.

It would give consumers the ability to disable data tracking and collection on internet sites. It would require financial juggernaut companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and other online companies to be open with consumers in regard to protecting their sensitive information.

One has to wonder if consumers have an expectation of privacy on online sites that are free to use. Is it a violation of trust for social media networks and other online companies to mine, sell and profit from user data that users willingly posted?

How impersonal have these online giants become when your list of “friends” has expanded into the hundreds? Having a smaller group of friends in your inner circle generally makes many people want to interact with them more.

Recent privacy and data security issues have reminded us that there is something important about seeing people face to face. Most people only talk to 20 to 30 people each day, according to a Snapchat spokesperson.

With social media, many people have allowed their list of friends on Facebook to expand into the hundreds. They may have a few hundred more followers on Twitter, hundreds more on Instagram and others on LinkedIn.

Some social media experts suggest you occasionally trim your list of friends and contacts. You should decide exactly which friends you actually care about and can get along without knowing so much about.

By doing this, the friends you keep will mean more to you. Having a few close friends is better than having numerous friends that mean little to you.



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WHAT ARE Americans thinking? With all the talk and speculation about Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, and its threat to America’s democracy, isn’t it ironic that so many individual investors and mutual funds are willing to play Russian roulette with their money?

So many lives and careers are hanging in the balance because of their connections with the Russians. Congressional investigations are costing taxpayers untold amounts of money to make sure our past and future elections are free of interference and meddling.

Federal and state election boards are working overtime and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure the 2018 and ’20 elections aren’t tampered with by the Russians and other bad actors.

Wall Street Journal’s “Streetwise” columnist James Mackintosh recently illustrated how scary it is to consider Russia a safe investment option.

“It is true that Russia looks like a terrible place to invest based on politics and long-term fundamentals. It is run by a kleptocracy that diverts shareholder cash into its own pockets. It has a nationalist leader happy to use foreign military adventures to distract from deep economic and health problems at home.

“To think Russia is cheaper than it should be requires two assumptions. First, company management and the state will siphon off less than shareholders assume.

“Second, the U.S. pushback against Russia over the past two weeks isn’t the start of a more concerted attempt to ruin the Russian economy.”

Then, there is this bit of wisdom from Arjun Divecha, head of emerging-markets equities at Boston, Mass.-based Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo and Co. “We’ve always said you make more money when things go from truly awful to merely bad, than when they go from good to great.

“Russia’s relationship with the world is now approaching truly awful.”