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Protecting Consumer Data: Privacy is a Right, Not a Privilege

Jan 10, 2019 | Consumer Data Collection

Protecting Consumer Data

All of the apps and online services you use track, collect and distribute your usage patterns and demographic information. However, some companies put much more emphasis on protecting the data of their consumers, whereas others go out of their way to collect and analyze as much of their users’ data as they can. The ever-increasing gap between companies’ ethos and philosophy toward user privacy has reached a turning point. On the one hand, you have companies like Apple that have built up a brand and a reputation for standing with their customers by protecting and encrypting their data as much as possible–at times even making that data completely inaccessible to Apple itself. Then again, on the other hand, you have companies like Google that go out of their way to gather as much data and information as possible from their users, without paying nearly as much thought as to how to contain and protect that data from breaches and hacks. As a consumer, these increasingly polarized attitudes and approaches toward the issue of privacy should definitely strike a chord, and at least raise some questions for thought.

What Kind of Personal Data Can A Company Collect

One of the questions that might come to mind is whether or not you actually have any say as to how often or what kinds of data companies can collect from you. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as cut and dry as a yes or no. The reality is that privacy laws vary immensely depending on the industry, type of service, and location of the company providing the app you are using. As such, the level of accountability and transparency that businesses must meet are quite different from one another. What this means in real world situations is that a customer cannot have universal demands or expectations from businesses and companies regarding their privacy. While this is hugely inconvenient, there is a silver lining in the form of your own decision making. Though you alone cannot control the laws governing the ins and outs of these companies, you can make an educated decision as to which services you choose to use and to what extent you wish to use them.

Agreeing to Terms Regarding Types of Data Gmail and Facebook Can Collect

For example, upon creating an account for Gmail, Twitter, Facebook iCloud and the like, you will typically be presented with a series of options regarding data and diagnostics. While most folks usually just take the easy route and skip ahead using the default settings, it is definitely worth your time to stick around and explore a bit. By taking a second look at what you are agreeing to, you may notice a couple of things that genuinely surprise you. It’s amazing how much these companies can get away with gathering from your usage and many people probably would not be as comfortable using those services, if they understood the extent of the access these companies have regarding your private data. By taking a couple of minutes and reading up on your options while signing up, you can actually limit several major pieces of information that these companies have access to, such as browsing and crash data, frequency of use, and general statistics about your areas of interest and demographics.

Privacy and Data Collection

As for the things you cannot control, there is little else you can do about that outside of finding another company that provides a similar service that values your privacy more than its data collection. Some things you can’t easily limit access to include anything the company exempts or says it needs from you in order to provide their service in their privacy policy and anything else that they can gather ‘publicly’ from your browsing or usage. Certain bits of information are personal but not identifiable, meaning that they cannot see who the data is from nor any identifying characteristics of the user. While it can definitely be scary to think of all the data these companies have collected from you, you should know that usually the data is only used internally. What this means is the company that collected your data while you used their app or service will only use that data to improve the quality and performance of their site or product. The upside of this is your data will not be pawned off to other companies, but the downside is that less and less businesses give you that level of privacy as an option.

Selling Data Information Collected

The classic example of a company that is more than willing to sell and barter away their gathered information is Facebook. To be clear, Facebook is a company which has millions of active users and their database of users is quite diverse, covering many different spheres and communities. As such one would think that Facebook would understand and value their users’ privacy by respecting and protecting it…but no. Facebook instead takes the much more lowly route of simply hoarding as much user data as possible and then selling this data to third party companies for a massive markup and profit. Perhaps the most insulting aspect of this shady business practice is that it happens almost entirely in total secrecy, without any notice or heads up given to any of the user base. As a result of their recklessness, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has had to appear before Congress to explain the company’s actions and decision making processes, especially in light of recent hacks and security breaks which have exposed millions of users’ profiles, photos, friend lists, and other private data without their permission.

Limiting the Amount of Data Which Can Be Collected from Your Activity

In light of these now public scandals, most consumers have reached a point where they just want to enjoy the services they need without a constant fear of being tracked and the worry of having their collected information leaked publicly. For your own privacy and security, we recommend to do some searching around to see if the particular apps and services you use have strong options for limiting the amount of data that can be gathered from your activity, as well as checking up on the overall reputation of that company as it is relevant to user privacy. Even a simple internet search can bring up any major scandals, side deals, security breaches, and common privacy concerns regarding any given company. By checking out some articles like this one here, you can learn so much more about how your data and privacy are treated on the internet and what you can do about it on your end.

Our Privacy Lawyers Can Help

Our goal here is to empower you with some of the basics regarding your rights to privacy and how data collection works on different platforms. At KAASS LAW, we stand with our clients and we believe that privacy is a right, not a privilege. If you have any other questions or concerns regarding your online privacy and how you can take control of it, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We invite you to reach out to us with any problems or cases you may have by giving us a toll free call at 310-933-5171 to speak to one of our lawyers today.