A political data firm, Cambridge Analytica, was able to access the private information of 50 million Facebook users for marketing campaigns during the 2016 presidential election without the knowledge of those users. Facebook is now under pressure to explain “what the social network knew about the misuse of its data ‘to target political advertising and manipulate voters’”.
Last week on Linkedin, I saw a post written by Miguel Benavides, calling for data use to be deemed part of companies’ corporate social responsibility policies:
It took decades of pressure for social agents to persuade businesses and regulators that companies should be responsible for their impact on society and on the environment. The idea of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), with all its variances in names and forms, established the principle of ethics and accountability of companies as social agents. That caused all sorts of watchdog agencies to emerge. Businesses even included CSR as a permanent component in their strategy, allowing it to move towards stronger concepts like Corporate Citizenship, Shared Value…
Well, if we talk about data being “the new oil”, shouldn’t we need new Environmental Protection Agencies watching data leaks, new Labor Protection Agencies to ensure new labor models meet the minimum social protection criteria. What about Community Protection Agencies to watch how using all that data affects communities, social life, or even human behavior?
Along these same lines, tech writer Zeynep Tufecki wrote recently in the New York Times that
Data privacy is not like a consumer good, where you click “I accept” and all is well. Data privacy is more like air quality or safe drinking water, a public good that cannot be effectively regulated by trusting in the wisdom of millions of individual choices. A more collective response is needed.
In theory this is what the new GDPR hopes to achieve (at least in Europe), but will that be enough?
It will be interesting to see not just how legislators and regulators react, but more importantly how consumers’ online behavior and expectations of privacy will change, if at all. Will we become more demanding or more resigned? Regardless of whether you are a wanting online exhibitionist, the unavoidable truth is that we consumers are getting played. Sure there is a huge benefit in getting personalized offers and content, but consumers give it all away for free to companies who are laughing all the way to the bank.