Jonathan Salem Baskin writes: The FTC has ruled that data brokers need to be more transparent. The slow reveal of NSA snooping details continues (as Glenn Greenwald’s book may get made into a movie, and you can bet Snowden’s tome is already being ghost-written). eBay has just joined the long list of businesses to have its data hacked. The privacy issue isn’t going away any time soon, though the commercial social media sites have deftly surfed the edges of the wave. Considering the low thresholds of user loyalty these platforms command, and the inexpensive ease by which true P2P communicating can be accomplished, I wonder how long before the leading “Big Social” companies either address the issue clearly , or are forced by regulators or consumers to suffer the consequences of failing to do so.
For instance, when Facebook recently announced changes to its default privacy settings on sharing with friends, it was revealed also that it could access smartphone mics to capture and analyze the songs, TV shows and other things users heard. Google suffered a court ruling in Europe earlier this year, forcing it to allow petitioners to be “forgotten” by its search engine, just as the continued rollout of its glasses promised to add every waking moment of users’ lives to its database (it also recently announced it would no longer scan students’ emails for marketing purposes, while admitting it had used data collected from its apps for government customers for just such purposes).
Add to these headlines the recurring experience of opt-in screens or other detailed mouseprint agreements users are required to approve in order to use many online services (Yahoo just changed its policy to deny users the ability to request that their behavior not get tracked, and called it an improvement in “personalized experience”). Even Wiki’s latest privacy changes are laudable for their transparency, but still woefully complex, as if they’re written only for the initiated to understand, let alone find.
This is muddled communicating, at best, and it’s hard not to think that it’s purposeful, since the profitability of these services depends on users remaining unaware of the extent to which their privacy is (or will be) exploited. [Continue reading…]