Fining Facebook bodes well for consumer data privacy
The Federal Trade Commission’s scrutiny of Facebook data collection policies has been in progress for more than a decade. Repeated concerns over sharing user data, side-stepping user-affirmative consent, and various deceptive practices around data privacy have finally culminated in $5 billion USD penalty in mid-July of 2019. Robust consumer and data privacy laws—like GDPR—are being enforced globally and we are finally seeing the same trend in the U.S. But are fines enough for a tech giant like Facebook? It’s unlikely that the FTC fine will lead to true change in Facebook’s data practices. The company’s entire business model is built on collecting (some say exploiting), then selling user data. Changing their perspective on data privacy would require a total revamp of the company strategy, the leadership, and the culture.
So, what are we to do? And why should we, as the consumers, care at all?
You have power as a consumer
First, recognize your power. As a consumer, you are Facebook’s most targeted and sought-after asset. Their revenue depends on your use of the platform in everyday digital activity. But as consumers, it’s easy to forget that you can choose to make privacy a mandatory qualification for any service you use. Walk away if they do not make substantive changes to protect your rights to consent and stop giving away your private data; there may be another merchant or provider who doesn’t engage in the same kinds of consumer policies that Facebook chose to employ. Your consumer “vote” through your actions is more powerful than any regulation or any fine. This is how capitalism and consumerism give an individual power, one app at a time.
Data privacy is something all consumers should care about, and demand all corporations protect. With privacy as the root of any security strategy, consumers need to begin choosing service providers with privacy as a starting point. Think about it this way: your web-browsing habits are a spinal tap into your psyche and your behavior. And before you start thinking “I have nothing to hide,” remember that data doesn’t just let a company identify you, it lets them manipulate you.
If a company (or a government) can learn about where you go, what you like, what you think, what you do—and when—that’s powerful information that can be used to not only predict behavior, but to influence it. Your activity online is an x-ray of the digital you. That look inside your mind is private, therefore worth protecting.
Take control of your own data privacy
In addition to boycotting companies that disrespect your privacy, there are other safeguards you can implement: Use a VPN to anonymize yourself and your activity online.
Choose your VPN provider carefully. Not all VPNs are created equal. Most of them sell your data. Some are not properly encrypted to protect your data. Some port your data to overseas servers in countries where data and privacy regulations are lax, and your rights are nonexistent.
As CEO of a cybersecurity company, I have a unique chance to set the polices by which Rubica collects and stores your data. We don’t ever, ever sell your data because it goes against what our company believes in, which is keeping you as anonymous as you want to be online. I’ve chosen to make data privacy a cornerstone upon which our consumer data practices are built so that your data is never a commodity.
We are so committed to this promise that if we ever do sell your data, we will pay you triple the revenue we received from that sale. Plus: it’s documented in our legal terms, not just our marketing lingo.
Because cybersecurity, when done well, protects your privacy.