Data Privacy Day – A Day to Celebrate or Lament?

Data Privacy Day is an international awareness event that takes place every year on January 28th. Its purpose is to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection, particularly in the context of social media. Data Privacy Day is a legitimate observance day - unlike many awareness days such as the International No Diet Day (May 6th) and International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th). This yearly event has been observed in the United States, Canada, and 48 other countries since 2007. The question around it is whether it should be a day to celebrate or lament.

We woke up on this 2020 Data Privacy Day with yet another gut punch: The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced yesterday the results of a study surrounding the Android version of the home security app Ring. The EFF identified several embedded third-party trackers accessing a “plethora” of customers’ personal information. Four analytics and marketing companies, including Facebook, are constantly receiving information such as the names, private IP addresses, mobile network carriers, and sensor data on the devices of paying customers. None of them are listed on Ring’s Privacy Notice. It is at least ironic that a company built to protect its consumers’ privacy is selling its data. Ring, an Amazon-owned company, is one of many corporate juggernauts to profit from spying on its own customers.

Facebook has had multiple scandals about data privacy, data collection, and the sale of data. Last year, the company officially paused its audio transcription program, where hundreds of contractors were transcribing audio files captured through Facebook’s Messenger app. The company claimed that the users affected were aware that their voices were being recorded. Facebook made over $6 billion in profits just in Q3 2019 alone by monetizing customers’ data. Users need to understand that there is no such thing as a free service - you are paying with your data.

Facebook is in the business of selling personal data while masquerading as a social media company.

Privacy intrusion goes beyond a search engine merely predicting when to offer a particular product – it goes against our freedom. If massive corporations know everything about ourselves, such as the kind of products we purchase, posts we share, and groups we support, how hard is it for them to start heavily influencing our lives? With mountains of data, marketers will be able to tailor precise messages and influence us on the latest fashions, products to gift, places to visit, how to think about hot topics, and (as already seen in 2016) who to support in the next election. Being oblivious about privacy and being manipulated by a handful of giant corporations does not represent American freedom.

Data is the new gold, and companies are mining it like it is 1849. Huge corporations are scavenging for information and unaware users surrender their precious personal data in exchange for gimmicks. In yet another David vs. Goliath battle, large corporations have a considerable lead in the privacy race. Fortunately, data privacy laws are starting to emerge, such as CCPA, giving the population choices regarding the use of their personal data.