Disputes against Google can lead to ripples in data collection

On Monday, at the start of Data Privacy Week, attorneys general for Washington, D.C., Indiana, Texas and Washington state filed a lawsuit against Google that alleges misleading history tracking location of users. This stems from claims about how data settings actually work in relation to user privacy, public awareness of this data collection, and how data is allegedly applied in apps and recommendations. Google released statements that it planned to defend itself, saying those claims were inaccurate.

This is far from the first data privacy dispute to be brought to court, it may not be the last, and it’s worth watching. Other companies that collect and use data as part of their business models – for example, to make recommendations to users – continue their dance with regulators and end users who increasingly wonder where control and ownership of such data should reside.

Ambiguity is the enemy

One of the main concerns emerging from these discussions is the desire for greater transparency, says Jeremy Barnett, chief commercial officer of web-based privacy management solutions provider Lokker. “I think the attorneys general want to point out that there’s a lack of trust because there’s a lack of transparency,” Barnett says.

There’s also a lack of clear vocabulary around data capture and use, says Barnett. Regulators and lawmakers who assess privacy seem to focus on language, he says, because the terminology used can be confusing to the layman.

“How these policies are written and what this language means needs to become much clearer and companies need to step up and take ownership,” he says. Companies have a responsibility, says Barnett, to communicate more clearly to the customer about what information will be collected, how long it will be collected, what the information will be used for and what options customers have to opt-in or opt-out. -outside. “That’s a fundamental problem with all of these lawsuits.”

Layers of internet, mobile device, and app development can make it hard to see how many faces are behind the curtain. “There are a lot of people the end consumer is dealing with that they don’t really understand,” says Barnett.

litany of litigation

Legal challenges to how data is handled often come from various state entities, which can lead to multiple lawsuits over the same issues. This prompted a call among some stakeholders for precedence and law to be established at the national level to clear up the confusing landscape. “In recent years, three states have passed comprehensive privacy legislation and others have passed more targeted legislation,” said Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF ). “Others have proposed and are considering moving forward with similar efforts.”

ITIF is a think tank on public policy in science and technology; its funders include entities such as the National Philanthropic Trust, Energy Innovation Fund, as well as private sector companies such as IBM, Google, Microsoft and Oracle.

Castro says that given the way past tech legislation was passed at the state level, more states could go down this route and create a patchwork of laws that companies must navigate unless Congress passes a law. federal which warns the States. This can expose companies that operate across the majesty to a host of laws, he says.

“When you look at the Google lawsuit that was filed this week,” Castro says, “which comes back to questions about how Google was communicating to its users about controlling their privacy settings.” In various privacy laws, lawmakers express a desire for such communication to be conducted in specific ways, he says. The patchwork approach of different policies in different states can expose companies to lawsuits if they deviate from these rules.

“It’s obviously risky for business,” Castro says. “It will make them think twice about how they operate in this environment. I think it’s debatable how effective this is in increasing consumer privacy versus increasing business regulatory complexity. He sees a way forward through the establishment of clear rules for businesses and rights for customers at the federal level.

Continuous friction

The claims in the lawsuit against Google speak to the ongoing conversation about business gains and data ownership. “These types of lawsuits show that using data is a high-risk proposition for companies,” Castro says. The issues raised in Google’s lawsuit are different from cases of intent to deceive users, he says. In Google’s case, Castro says the activity was in broad daylight. “It’s not something like Cambridge Analytica, where they collect huge amounts of data that nobody knew about.”

Some policymakers and regulators continue to disagree with companies about what they expect to happen, Castro says. This may include an expectation from lawmakers that companies ensure that all consumers must first register to share data and that there is a choice not to share data but still have access to services. “These types of requirements are quite far from those of most companies,” he says.

While many companies are willing to work with lawmakers on how they obtain user consent or how users express their preferences, Castro says these companies probably don’t mean users can opt out of sharing. data and still have access to their services if this is the case. their business model. “That’s where there’s definitely tension,” he says.

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