There has always been tension surrounding privacy online. Most users want an experience something between total anonymity and total openness, and largely the onus has been on them to learn about their rights and options. However, the dynamic may now be changing as companies become more transparent about their practices, and users begin questioning the data companies collect.
In an environment of changing data protection laws, and increased user participation in the process, users are increasingly confronted with the reality that their data is being constantly mined. Last week the European Parliament, industry groups, and companies, reached an agreement on a packet of laws that aim to increase consumer privacy protections through better communication with users. The legislation also aims to outline the boundaries for law enforcement and businesses with regard to their access to user data.
Félix Braz, Luxembourg minister of justice and president of the council, said in a press release:
It is a fundamental agreement with important consequences. This reform not only strengthens the rights of citizens, but also adapts the rules to the digital age for companies, whilst reducing the administrative burden. These are ambitious and forward-looking texts.
Google responded after the agreement by asking users, once again, to agree the collection of their data. Aside from being a legally necessary move, this is indicative of trends in the industry that have resulted from greater user participation. Users also more aware of the value of everything they upload, and are seeking out services that value their content, and are willing to compensate them for it.
However, companies like Facebook, that offer no direct value to the user, have increasingly come under scrutiny for their practices. Facebook has been reluctant to roll facial recognition technology out to Europe and Canada, perhaps because of tighter data regulations. Facebook is already facing lawsuits over facial recognition in the U.S., relating to the storing data deemed too sensitive or identifying.
User data is perhaps the most important resource the internet has, and as such it should be treated with respect. Without a users who trust your company to protect their data, and treat it responsibly, the long term viability of any digital and social communication is in jeopardy. With adequate notification and advice, maybe users will have the tools to proactively protect their data in the near future.
Readers: What should social companies do to ensure your digital privacy?