Dear privacy professionals,
Gong Xi Fa Cai to those of you who celebrate the Lunar New Year!
According to most fortune tellers, the Year of the Pig promises to be a challenging one for individuals with my Chinese zodiac sign (which I won’t disclose here as that would give you a good indication of my age). I hope that the rest of you and the companies you work for have better luck in store.
One company whose privacy fortunes could use a turnaround this year is Facebook. The tech giant’s privacy practices have been under a fair bit of tough scrutiny recently. For a start, Mark Zuckerberg’s op-ed for The Wall Street Journal on Facebook’s business model as it turns 15 years old generated a number of critical responses deliberating what its impact on privacy has been.
The release of the draft charter for its content moderation board, as well as the appointment of prominent former critics (the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Nate Cardoza and the Open Technology Institute’s Robyn Green) into senior privacy roles within the organization has not completely silenced the critics questioning Facebook’s commitment to transparency and other privacy values.
The subsequent revelation that Facebook’s Research app was blocked by Apple for an apparent breach of its policies for the Enterprise Certificate program certainly did not help. Once again, Facebook found itself fending off allegations about use and abuse of customer data, in this case, involving the highly charged issue of teens’ privacy.
To be clear, I am not as cynical as many of these critics. Unfortunately for Facebook, it appears that some regulators are sitting up and taking notice. In one of the articles featured in this week’s digest, New Zealand Privacy Commissioner John Edwards noted that Facebook is allegedly “doubling down” on privacy abuse. “If last week's allegations about the company's conduct in relation to its privileged access to Apple's Enterprise Developer Program are accurate, that would indicate either a profound ignorance of expected standards of conduct, or an outright contempt for those standards, which either way is inconsistent with assurances by the company's chief executive and others about responsible data management,” Edwards said.
Edwards has pushed for leading tech companies to be subject to greater regulatory oversight and asked for more enforcement powers in the update to New Zealand’s Privacy Act that is currently making its way through Parliament. In fact, there seems to be a growing global consensus on this issue.
I, for one, cannot wait to see how all this will pan out. What is certain is that there will not a dull day for us privacy professionals for a long time to come.
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