Nothing is private on the internet. Surprise.

Apparently, Facebook allowed tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, Spotify and Netflix to access your private messages. Meanwhile, the giants claimed they didn’t use or abuse this feature, blah blah blah. Do you even care anymore?

Does anyone actually believe in the illusion of privacy in our socially-connected, always-on, smart home lives? We buy appliances like Amazon Alexa and Google Home specifically to listen to us, do our bidding and make our lives easier and more enjoyable. So why are we surprised when our discussion about hammers on Monday shows up as a targeted Facebook ad selling us hammers on Tuesday?

We need to rethink our definition of privacy.

The Netflix Privacy Statement is about 3,000 words. It clearly states the parameters of privacy — meaning what they receive and store on subscribers as part of the ‘agreement’ to be a subscriber:

  • Information you provide to Netflix: Your name, email address, address, payment method and telephone number. Also data such as your content ratings or reviews.
  • Information Netflix collects automatically: This includes what platforms you watch Netflix on (smartphone, tablet, computer, Smart TV, streaming box), your IP address (where you’re logging in from), watch history and search queries, length of time you watch a show and interactions with customer service.

If you think about it, this data isn’t too invasive – in the digital world, your location and the device you use to watch are as basic as your employer looking outside at your car. The problem arises with ambiguous language like “data such as…” and the ongoing antics of Silicon Valley behemoths failing to follow the policies they set forth.

This puts us in an uncomfortable position in 2019. The rise of the smart home means that we are always online, even more so than we have been. What’s uncomfortable about this notion is that our digital privacy isn’t as well-protected as our Silicon Valley friends might have us think – something we’ve been shown time and time again in the recent years.

So, what can you do? No use deleting your Facebook account… don’t forget WhatsApp, one of the world’s largest communication platforms, is owned by Facebook. For many of the world’s users, getting away from Facebook is going to be just as hard as an iPhone user getting away from Apple.

How do we legislate privacy?

Europe’s sweeping data privacy law, General Data Protection Regulation, is new legislation that protects residents of the EU — people living there, including Americans. The directive says people have to give permission for a company to collect their data. A company can’t just sign you up without explicitly asking.

GDPR is an excellent first step, but the reality of the situation is that only you can truly control and protect your privacy:

·         Be vigilant about what you share, and more importantly, who you’re sharing with.

·         Consider reviewing your Facebook privacy settings to remove or hide anything you may not want public.

·         Don’t give your information to companies that haven’t earned – or have since lost – your trust.

Good luck out there. Protect yourself.

GillespieHall can help you safely navigate the troubled waters of internet privacy.

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