The future of Online Privacy and our Personal Data
Last week (5th – 11th Nov 2016) The Economist had an interesting article about Internet privacy – a new rule was introduced by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the 27th Oct that protects personal privacy by requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to gain opt-in consent from their customers to share data such as browsing history. Oddly Google, Facebook etc are not deemed to be ISPs so their privacy controls are governed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which doesn’t have such a consumer-friendly focus on privacy. The online advertising industry is up in arms over the new rule – and obviously want to challenge the new FCC rule – so time will tell if this is the beginning of tighter privacy recognition or if the pressure of Google and Facebook, and their desire to track everything we do, will win out.
Meanwhile here in Europe, the Economist article also refers to EU privacy decisions over the last few weeks. On the 19th Oct the European Court of Justice decided that IP addresses come under data protection laws – for advertisers knowing that IP address helps them track you better – it’s a bit like not just knowing your home address but also your income, likes/dislikes, age, employment, education and other lifestyle and posting you targeted mail.
And thirdly in Ireland a challenge has been made to something called the ‘Privacy Shield’ – this an agreement between the US and EU that EU citizens data can be held on servers in the US and how that should be treated and what rights there are to using that data. The recent decision by WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, to update its privacy policies so personal data in WhatsApp is now linked with your corresponding Facebook profile so Facebook gains more personal information to place adverts in front of you and flies in the face of the spirit of the Privacy Shield.
The debate essentially swings between favoring businesses (e.g. placing adverts) and favoring consumers (right to privacy by opting-in) and it’s going to take a while for clarity to emerge.