The multiple scandals surrounding Facebook in regard to private user data has triggered an FTC investigation that might end up costing the social media giant $3-$5 billion. This is not the first time that tech companies have been called out on illicit data sharing. The difference this time is that legislators are now seeking to regulate the way companies handle private user data. The million-dollar question is if these legislations will actually have a positive effect.
Let’s face it, the vast majority of users don’t read the entire terms and conditions disclosure when signing up to a service. However, most people do not understand or are aware of the amount of data they pass on when using these services.
Google services and how much personal data they can extract from you is wide-ranging as they collect information intended to give you relevant content and targeted ads. Every time you use Google services, such as its search engine or maps, Google collects the data relating to search queries and location.
In other words, Google probably knows you better than your mother does. The problem is, Google is not always explicit what type of data it collects. Because of these data collection practices, France’s data privacy watchdog fined Google a 50 million euro for violating the General Data Protection Regulation.
Incidents like these are slowly beginning to draw the attention of Congress in terms of the regulation of data practices by tech companies. The straw that will likely break the legislative camel’s back is Facebook. The social media giant is currently is being probed by the FTC due to a myriad of data privacy scandals. These scandals range from sharing user data between third parties without their knowledge or consent, to data security practices, such as keeping user passwords in a plain text format instead of encrypted. The company said it expects to be fined anywhere between 3-5 billion dollars.
Now, the U.S. government is making moves toward regulating tech companies when it comes to their data practices. Various senators have already expressed their feelings when it comes to data privacy regulations. Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota stated: “The question is no longer whether we need a federal law to protect consumers’ privacy, the question is what shape will that law take?”
Ironically, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote an Op-Ed for The Washington Post asking legislators to come to the table with new regulations for the internet.
There are multiple reasons why you should be concerned about how companies use your data.
For one, you never know how that data might be potentially used against you by a third party. The more places your data is stored, the higher the risk of it being leaked or through a data breach. An example of this is when Target suffered a massive data breach due to an email phishing attack that exposed the information of 110 million consumers.
Furthermore, not knowing who your information is shared with, which has become a controversial issue in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is also a major issue still up for debate in the United States.
Lastly, you never know how that data might be used against you.
At the end of the day, it is not the government or the tech companies that have control over your data; it is the individual consumer. We are the ones who decide if we want to use a service. The best legislation we can hope for when it comes to privacy is one that strives for transparency in opt-in disclosures.
So far, there is little Congress can do when it comes to how big tech companies use their data. After all, you willingly gave it to them. And even if laws are passed providing guidelines for data privacy, there is no guarantee that exchanges under the table won’t happen.
As long as tech companies are transparent about what data they collect and how they use it, it is up to you as a consumer whether you would use their services or seek other alternatives.
There is no arguing against the fact that the services offered by big tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple can be extremely convenient for those who use them.
However, it is our responsibility as consumers to be aware of the data sharing practices of online services we intend to use. Likewise, the service provider must have an obligation to be transparent regarding how they acquire and utilize your data.
Julio Rivera, editorial director at ReactionaryTimes.com, is a small-business consultant based in New York City.
The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.