Should companies collecting consumer data, storing it, and selling it be subject to more regulation?

The subject of privacy has been gaining more attention from public policy makers. The EU implemented GDPR in 2018 and we expect that more regulation is on its way. Companies should be looking at their business models as we enter 2020. Its not a question of if but when policy makers will impose tighter restrictions on the use of data and make services more transparent and easier for the consumer to opt in or out.

Below the excitement and noise of 8K TVs, fitness wearables, and Neon avatars at CES 2020 a more serious examination of privacy and the security of data are key topics of the event. Much of this is driven by large data sets generated by mobile and sensor-based devices and the algorithms behind it that policy experts argue benefits suppliers (data collectors) not the consumer.

‘Digital privacy has become a crisis’

Erin Egan, VP of Public Policy and Chief Privacy Officer from Facebook and Jane Horvath, Senior Director Global Privacy at Apple sat on a panel session Tuesday January 7 joined by Susan Shook, Global Privacy Officer at Procter & Gamble and Rebecca Slaughter, Commissioner Federal Trade Commission. Jane was not as direct as Apple CEO Tim Cook has been in the past on Facebooks business model. Cook in the past has stated that digital privacy ‘has become a crisis’. Jane did make it clear that Apple is on the side of consumers and designs all products and services for privacy – in some cases without the consumer being aware of it.

Facebook forced to defend its position

Erin spent most of the time during the session on her heels defending Facebook’s policy, but neither Rajeev Chand the moderator nor Rebecca Slaughter was buying it. Erin stated that Facebook has a “privacy check” offered to the consumer, but I would argue that doesn’t work when data moves beyond 1st order relationships.

The key take-away coming out of the session was best summarized by Commissioner Slaughter. Slaughter concluded that it is impossible to determine that enough is being done to protect consumer privacy. The FTC is advocating that legislation should be passed to support a US federal privacy law. Doing it at the US state level makes enforcement harder and leaves more interpretation of how it should be implemented given each US state will most likely craft their own regulations.