In the last few years, as the issue of our online privacy gets more and more attention, and it seems that the playing field of the big companies is divided. There are different types of companies, with different types of interests. The first group is the giant tech companies that profit from data gathering, like Facebook or Google. This group supports the idea of consumers’ choice- they can opt in or opt out if they want to. The second group isn’t depended on data for their business model (like Apple and Cisco), and therefore is more supporting the idea of harsher regulation, keeping in mind the fact not all users indeed understand fully the consequences of their choices.
A good example for that matter is the latest speech of Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, in the European Union conference in Brussels (October 24th, 2018). Cook called for USA data regulations similar to the GDPR. Cisco also supports this idea, and it told Financial Times that it wants politicians in the US to implement their own version of the GDPR.
These declarations are backed up with actual acts. Apple, for example, banned apps by Google and Facebook from the Apple store for violating the store’s privacy rules.
Facebook’s app was called “Facebook Research”, and “TechCrunch” revealed that the company was secretly paying people ages 13 to 35 up to 20$ a month (plus referral fees) for installing it. The app allowed Facebook to get all the data about the user’s phone and activity, which is a violation of Apple’s policy.
Google’s app, ScreenWise, was very similar very similar to Facebook’s. They used the app in order to monitor and analyze users traffic and data, and also payed the participants using gift cards. The app was meant to users age 18 and above, but if it was a family group, kids in the age of 13 and above could participate as well.
The issue of privacy in an ongoing, hot topic that continues to gain more and more attention. Just last year, in early 2018, everybody was obsessed with the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal. Even though Facebook did take responsibility and tries to implement changes, it seems like it’s not enough. In the beginning of the month (February 1st, 2019) , for example, Facebook failed in a motion-to-dismiss concerning a class-action privacy lawsuit. While Facebook’s attorney tried to claim that Facebook didn’t break any privacy laws because users gave their permission to external parties’ data collection, the U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria declared that Facebook’s disclosures “are quite vague”, not sufficient, and the lawsuit will proceed as planned.
Even though it seems like the big challenge is keeping our privacy, we may need to start thinking about the future as well. The more information companies have, the easier it will to categorize us. This means we will no longer be valued as an individual, but just as a certain “type” of person.