Google was fined $57 million for noncompliance, Mark Zuckerberg spoke out on behalf of Facebook in a new op-ed, and two new reports displayed the eerie capabilities of social media. Read on for this week’s data privacy recap.
Google pays massive fine for breaching GDPR
French data privacy regulator, the National Data Protection Commission (CNIL), slapped Google with a $57 million fine this week. The offense has to do with the company’s failure to comply with the GDPR. In their words, the company is being fined for “lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding the ads personalization.” Google’s noncompliance was discovered in a recent investigation conducted by CNIL. Two specific privacy advocacy groups inspired the investigation: La Quadrature du Net (LQDN) and None Of Your Business (NOYB). The latter group is reportedly leading investigations into Apple and Amazon for similar offenses. Google breached the law by forcing users to abide by a harmful ultimatum. In various updates, the company forced users to accept invasive terms and rules, because failure to do so would have resulted in losing access to certain products.
One of the core principles of the GDPR is the notion that companies are no longer allowed to force users to tolerate invasive data harvesting. The information around the storage of data, and how the company uses data for targeted ads, was deemed unreasonably vague and complicated. Secondly, the investigation found that Google invalidly gained user consent for the aforementioned targeted ads. Users had to go out of their way to adjust these settings, and even if they did, the settings were cumbersome. All in all, Google’s interface essentially guided users into giving consent through the default start-up wizards, and failed to properly explain all of the options available. That’s the kind of vague under-the-table practice that simply won’t fly in 2019.
Mark Zuckerberg speaks out in op-ed
Social media mogul Mark Zuckerberg challenged his critics in a controversial opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal this week. The lengthy op-ed went into detail on how the social platform does not share user data with any third-party advertisers without consent. In an attempt to pick up the pieces following Facebook’s recent scandals, Zuckerberg promises user data is safely stored, and that it’s used to make content more relevant to them. After backlash and mockery from his robotic appearance during the data breach trial last April, Zuckerberg opened this article with a simple anecdote to remind the public that he is, in fact, a human. He reminded people that the whole goal of Facebook was to connect people.
The tech CEO also admitted that Facebook stores massive amounts of user data to improve cybersecurity and fraud detection. Zuckerberg voiced his concerns about how data has been managed and communicated to consumers in the past, highlighting how Facebook strives to be a fully transparent corporation and is working to improve the control of users information. It’s clear that Zuckerberg is playing defense, considering the almost-weekly ethical investigations into his company’s business practices. Zuckerberg has been pinned as an unstoppable con man of the same magnitude as Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, and he’s working to rebuild his personal and company image one step at a time.
New research shows social media’s eerie reach
The University of Vermont published a fascinating new report this week which details the true reach of social media technology. The paper was published in this week’s issue of Nature Human Behavior, and focuses on how social media collects data not just on users, but on those users’ friends as well. And the sobering realization is that the technology collects data on users regardless of whether they have a Facebook/Twitter account or not. During their study, the researchers gathered more than 30 million public posts on Twitter from nearly 1400 English-speaking users. They also processed the tweets of each user’s most frequent Twitter contacts, and used that data to create predictive models. Using these models, the researchers were able to predict future tweets with an accuracy of 64%. With the users’ contacts, the team was able to predict behavior with an accuracy of 61%. So even if you delete your account, the data that your friends create about you is still highly accurate.
Believe it or not, “information within the Twitter messages from 8 or 9 of a person’s contacts make it possible to predict that person’s later tweets as accurately as if they were looking directly at that person’s own Twitter feed.” But, so what? What can even be done with that predictive data. Well, considering its accuracy, it can be used to help advertisers serve you highly-targeted ads for products and services. And the troubling subtext of that realization is that, well, there’s not a whole lot that people can do to prevent these shadow profiles from being created. If your friends are creating social media content about you, or featuring pictures of you, your online profile exists. Professor James Baglow, one of the authors of the paper, said it best: “You alone don’t control your privacy on social media platforms. Your friends have a say too.”
Blis report sheds light on consumer perceptions of personal data
Location-based data technology trailblazer, Blis, published an extensive research report, The Currency of Data: Quantifying the Value of Consumer Information,detailing how Americans feel about their unique data and how willing they are to surrender their information. As personal data becomes a highly valued form of currency in the world of marketing, consumers are learning how to manage the data collected about them and their purchasing habits. The 2019 report found that nearly two in three consumers are more aware of how their personal data is being used today than last year, and 80% of people are cognizant of the fact their locations are being tracked. The Blis report also revealed that 60% are willing to give their personal information (such as address or phone number) to marketers, and over half of which would place a $10 minimum to unveil their data. Seventy percent of respondents agreed to share their buying habits in exchange for a discount at retailers such as Amazon.
This research exposes the truth behind the growing commodity and how data has evolved into one of the most valued forms of currency in the world of advertising in recent years. Blis CMO Diane Perlam expressed how “we are already seeing this on a less sophisticated level with consumers exchanging their email addresses for discounts on their online purchase. We don’t know what this marketplace will look like yet, but privacy and transparency will be crucial in this new data-driven economy.”
What do you think was the most important data story of the week? Leave us a comment below.
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