Monday, 16 July 2018 20:47

Clarity on consumer data usage needed to prevent further privacy scandals

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A top analyst and research firm says with data privacy controversies continuing to emerge, companies must "do more to reassure customers with clearer expectations about how their data is used".

Data and analytics firm GlobalData is ringing the alarm bells over the continuing data privacy scandals, which really came to light following the revelation "Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data without permission to target US and European voters in elections", which resulted in Facebook being "fined by the UK regulator".

"Furthermore", the company explained, "a recent investigation from Dutch news site De Correspondent and Bellingcat has found that some users of a consumer service have intentionally made their information public and that information could be used for nefarious purposes.

"The investigation revealed that it was possible to find out user work out location information via fitness app and activity tracker Polar Flow and match that information with the names of employees working at US intelligence, military and government buildings.

"Polar Flow did not leak any of this information; nor has anyone stolen this information. These users chose to make their information public by turning off the default private data settings within the app".

Lynnette Luna, technology analyst at GlobalData, said: “The landscape of smart apps, social networking and connected devices like smart speakers are fraught with data exploitation – from data that is legitimately collected with the right privacy settings to data that is leaked or used without permission.

“Consumers have come to rely on services that know things about them. There’s value in personalised offerings. Yet consumers still do not quite know how to traverse this new digital landscape and the privacy implications that go with it.”

The organisation points out that "new laws like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation are aiming to shore up consumer notifications and rights in this area, and it is increasingly likely that they will need to become stricter.

"For their own part, technology companies need to be more proactive to helping users understand privacy settings and how information could be used."

Luna explained: “Privacy goes significantly further than just notifications and messaging tools. Companies need to fully explain often why it’s important to have information and how that information makes their services better.

"They also need to give full control over the types of data they share and do it via tools that are easy to use and are clearly visible to the user.

“Just as important, data-driven companies need to study and anticipate how data — legitimate or leaked — can be used in ways that were never intended, rather than continually putting out fires."

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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