If you are like me (and, trust me, I’m fairly normal when it comes to being a part of today’s consumer society) you are getting a lot of emails with the subject line something like: “We are updating our privacy policies.”
They go on to say they want to make sure we understand how data about each of us is collected, shared, and used.
Odds are good most of us will give these notices a passing glance and move on, just as we did when we first clicked “OK” without reading through the reams of legal language. Only this time it usually doesn’t even require a click—if you continue to use the app or the service, you are giving your permission.
Seems all these social media companies have taken serious note of the issues facing Facebook and the hit to its bottom line. Not all of them can afford that type of hit, so it’s good business sense to review and make changes where necessary.
However, if you think sweeping change in what companies know about you is coming, well, you might think again. Yes, there will be more transparency. Companies such as eBay even promise it, saying, “We will provide increased transparency around the different purposes for which we use your personal information.” But they won’t stop using it.
They can’t, if you want a free internet and free services.
They can’t, if you want personalized marketing, where the internet recognizes our searches and assists us with recommendations and links.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is something you’ll probably hear more about, too (and we wrote about it here). This is a “comprehensive update to existing European Union laws” and they go into effect on May 25, 2018. While these laws were originally created to protect data privacy in Europe, many U.S.-based companies have adopted the same policies. This is why the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica people both have testified across the pond.
Our choices are fairly clear. Accept the fact that companies are trying, and that GDPR is the standard everyone will be asked to live up to. Or, acknowledge that it may not be enough for you. In that case, you have the choice to deactivate your account, opt out of social media and use of apps, and go off the tech grid as far as you want to go. Twitter says it outright: “Remember, you can use the controls we highlight in our updated policy to limit the information we collect about you or how we use it. You can also choose to deactivate your Twitter account. You have the final say about whether and how we process your personal data.”
Here’s the bottom line:
1) Don’t expect the companies to control your privacy, beyond what they promise in the GDPR. But don’t freak about the use of your data, either—in most cases it’s used in an aggregate manner, without specific identification to you.
2) If you want out, it’s your choice to opt out of the services you get for free. It’s that simple.
We’ll continue to watch this, particularly since this impacts the way we do business, too. Privacy is definitely being redefined. Are you in or are you out?