Companies must be clearer on consumer data usage to prevent further privacy scandals

Bangalore: With new data privacy controversies continuing to emerge on a frequent basis, putting the issue front and center for US and European lawmakers, companies must do more to reassure consumers with clearer explanations about how their data is used, according to GlobalData.

Earlier this year, it came to light that Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data without permission to target US and European voters in elections. This resulted in Facebook being fined by the UK regulator.

Furthermore, a recent investigation from Dutch news site De Correspondent and Bellingcat has found that some users of a consumer service have intentionally made their information public and that information could be used for nefarious purposes. The investigation revealed that it was possible to find out user work out location information via fitness app and activity tracker Polar Flow and match that information with the names of employees working at US intelligence, military and government buildings. Polar Flow did not leak any of this information; nor has anyone stolen this information. These users chose to make their information public by turning off the default private data settings within the app.

“The landscape of smart apps, social networking and connected devices like smart speakers are fraught with data exploitation—from data that is legitimately collected with the right privacy settings to data that is leaked or used without permission,” said Lynnette Luna, Technology Analyst – GlobalData. “Consumers have come to rely on services that know things about them. There’s value in personalized offerings. Yet consumers still do not quite know how to traverse this new digital landscape and the privacy implications that go with it.”

New laws like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are aiming to shore up consumer notifications and rights in this area, and it is increasingly likely that they will need to become stricter. For their own part, technology companies need to be more proactive to helping users understand privacy settings and how information could be used.

Luna explained, “Privacy goes significantly further than just notifications and messaging tools. Companies need to fully explain often why it’s important to have information and how that information makes their services better. They also need to give full control over the types of data they share and do it via tools that are easy to use and are clearly visible to the user.

“Just as important, data-driven companies need to study and anticipate how data—legitimate or leaked—can be used in ways that were never intended rather than continually putting out fires,” added Luna.

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