In light of recent events concerning the breach of personal data and privacy by Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, we are all wondering how transparent our lives become? Cambridge Analytica scandal is not a lone case since we had the Equifax breach last year (which exposed the sensitive personal information of 143 million Americans, including names and social security numbers).
Mark Zuckerberg’s ten hours of testifying in front of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation still left some unanswered questions.
Throughout the hearings, Zuckerberg was asked numerous times about his standpoint on GDPR (General Data Privacy Regulation), but he never gave the complete and clear answer. He repeated several times that Facebook does not let advertisers access personal identifying data of their users and they do not sell users data. Advertisers create targeted ads based on the data that Facebook obtains on user behavior and preferences. But the question is - is there a restricted kind of data when it comes to ad targeting? How will Facebook protect users privacy in messaging apps such as Messenger and WhatsApp? Is self-regulation sustainable concept in the tech industry today?
If the regulation comes into effect, it would not only apply to Facebook but also to the whole tech industry. This could cause a big change in the way all online companies do business, and also in the way digital advertising works.
There is a line between using data to personalize the experience and to advertise and sell products and services. Facebook data policy states that company can use a great deal of information about your device. For instance, operating system, battery level, information about nearby Wifi access points and beacons. It can also get an insight into your activities even when you're not using Facebook. The tracking is quite extensive and includes your location, websites you visit it can even monitor what you do on other websites if you are logged in to Facebook. Even though there is no evidence that Facebook shares this information, it is unnerving to realize how much company know about its users and how another breach can affect them.
At this point, we don’t how the regulation would look like or is there going to be one. And how adequate are lawmakers to regulate a company like Facebook? We have all witnessed that certain questions from Senate members implied that they were either not prepared well or ignorant of the tech industry fundamentals. We are also unaware which changes is Facebook going to implement into the practice of collecting and using the data. We can only hope that our data is safe - at least for now.