• Kerry Yoakum on Privacy Developments

    By Kerry Yoakum, Vice President of Government Affairs, OAAA

    Worldwide pressure is increasing to protect consumer data.

    Advertising relies on data analysis – including out of home media — to match ads to audiences.  This data, gleaned from cell phones and other devices, is anonymous and aggregated, not personal.

    The tenor of the privacy debate is changing, due to new regulations in Europe and Facebook’s admission that it mishandled personal data that was sold to help shape political ads.

    Here is a snapshot of some recent privacy developments:

    European Union

    Privacy rules change in the European Union May 25. The General Data Protections Regulation (GDPR) has far-reaching implications for citizens of the European Union and businesses operating within the EU, regardless of physical location. If businesses hope to offer goods or services to citizens of the EU, they will be subject to the penalties imposed by the GDPR. In addition, any business that holds personal data of EU citizens can be held accountable under the GDPR.

    What sort of personal data will fall under the GDPR?

    • Name
    • Photo
    • Email address
    • Social media posts
    • Personal medical information
    • IP addresses
    • Bank details

    Congress

    Focus on reform is growing in Congress, in response to Facebook sharing information from up to 87 million users (without their knowledge) with Cambridge Analytica, a data-mining firm used by the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.

    Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who testified before Congress April 10 and 11, supports legislation that would require social media companies to disclose who pays for political ads (“Honest Ads Act” sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, Mark Warner, D-VA, and John McCain, R-AZ).

    Litigation

    A class of Consumer Reports readers who claim the magazine breached Michigan’s privacy law by selling their subscription data asked a New York federal court to approve a $16.38 million settlement, which would double the largest-ever deal struck over alleged violations of the statute.

    On April 9, an Android user hit Facebook with a proposed class action in California federal court for allegedly copying and storing records of calls and texts without telling people or first seeking their explicit permission.

    Mining data which is anonymous and aggregated helps advertisers deliver relevant information to consumers.  In general, the current US regulatory scheme is based on the “opt-out” principle (consumers can block sharing of data about them by opting out).  Some opt out, but not many.

    If regulations required consumers to “opt in,” to give consent for use of their data, then the data-mining business could be disrupted.


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