Privacy at the New Year: Are We Coming Or Going?

by Patricia McGinnis 0

News in mid-December on two different frontsillustrated the deep gulf that separates privacy advocates fromcompulsive data gatherers. On the one hand, the Federal TradeCommission has taken a small step forward in requesting that somemajor United States firms answer questions about theirdata-collection practices. On the other hand, consumers are facingyet another unilateral data grab, in the form of a new “What’sYours Is Ours”policy from Instagram, the popular photosharingsite.

Here is what the FTC says about its upcoming study:

The nine data brokers receiving orders fromthe FTC are: 1) Acxiom, 2) Corelogic, 3) Datalogix, 4) eBureau, 5)ID Analytics, 6) Intelius, 7) Peekyou, 8) Rapleaf, and 9) RecordedFuture. The FTC is seeking details about:

  • the nature and sources of the consumer information the databrokers collect;
  • how they use, maintain, and disseminate the information;and
  • the extent to which the data brokers allow consumers to accessand correct their information or to opt out of having theirpersonal information sold.

Among the FTC’s major concerns – that these firms are not householdnames, and most are relatively unknown to consumers who thus do notunderstand what information about them is being collected or sold.Reports in a specified format are due back to the FTC in February2013, raising hopes that the agency might take some action in 2013.

Should the FTC have looked at photo gatherers as well as datagatherers? The photosharing service Instagram was acquired byFacebook in April, 2012, for a price estimated at around $1 billionin cash and Facebook stock. In mid-December, Instagram announced amajor change in its terms of use, advising that as of mid-January2013, Instagram, not the photographers, will own all rights to allphotos in customer accounts on the site. Instagram can sell thephotos for use in advertising, as well as analyze the content ofphotos. As of now, the only way to prevent Instagram from claimingyour photos is to delete your Instagram account, with all itscontent, before the effective date in January.

Consumers and site users have ignited a controversy over theannounced change. News site C/Net reported:

Reginald Braithwaite, an author and softwaredeveloper, posted a tongue-in-cheek “translation” of the newInstagram policy today: “You are not our customers, you are thecattle we drive to market and auction off to the highest bidder.Enjoy your feed and keep producing the milk.”

One Instagram user dubbed the policy change “Instagram’s suicidenote.”
Is Facebook killing the goose that lays the photo egg? Only timewill tell. There are certainly alternative solutions available toconsumers, not the least of which is Yahoo’s Flickr. The realquestions are – do consumers understand, and if so, do they care?How much do they value their privacy? If consumers can’t getexcited about behind the scenes gathering and aggregating of data,will they get excited about photos? Will consumers care if the nextad campaign for their favorite resort or vacation destinationfeatures unauthorized photos of themselves and their children atplay, courtesy of Instagram data sales?

What is your current view on the potential for invasion of yourpersonal privacy?
__Not worried
__Growing concerned
__Already worried

Let us know which description fits you.