When it comes to online privacy, the risks are multiplying as technology becomes an increasingly dominant force in our lives. The opportunities are astounding, but so are the risks to personal privacy.
My biggest concern with online privacy is people and entities breaking the law when they partake in data sharing. Today, countless privacy policies are put in place by companies to protect people’s data. They specify how people’s personal information may and may not be shared shared when they sign-up for a company’s services.
Companies may willfully neglect their own privacy policies, putting other business interests ahead of their contract with customers. Since people have no visibility into how their personal data may be shared, they also have no recourse for proving wrongdoing and carry the burden of proof.
Consider the last time that you received an email newsletter you never signed up for…There are individual privacy policies and canned spam laws that should protect you from this intrusion, but your personal information has been shared by a service or entity without your permission. You have no way of knowing who shared your information and thus, there’s very little you can do to prevent it happening again (short of unsubscribing).
The reality of many online services is that they also run on dependent services. This is both the strength and achilles heel of the modern technology era. It allows businesses of all shapes and sizes to scale beyond original capabilities. And it introduces points of potential failure along the way when people’s personal data changes hands between providers.
Even when these policies are written in a spirit to protect one’s customers, they can be abused on the backend when third-parties become privy to that data. This malfeasance can also be difficult to prove. There’s always a chance that third-parties treat customers’ privacy requirements too cavalierly (after all, they are not the original stewards of the customer relationship). Third parties may not protect customer data with the safeguards guaranteed especially when there’s little to no accountability.
The ultimate risk to compromising people’s personal privacy is when third parties have access to an excess of data that allows them to piece together customers’ identities and preferences. These insights could be used to manipulate, compromise and control people. It’s a scary prospect.
We should all demand this of the services we use and advocate for accountability in protecting people’s fundamental right to privacy.