POV: You’re sitting at the dinner table with your partner while they tell you about a news article they’re reading online. You pick up your phone and look at a notification from Facebook. You start to scroll, and barely down the page, you notice an ad for what your partner was talking about.
Wild, right?! Not really.
Targeted location ads have long been able to grab a user’s phone data and compare it to that of a nearby phone to see if retargeting that ad makes sense depending on background, gender, recent searches, etc. Our phones are close in proximity because we occupy the same physical space and are on the same IP address, thus the ad was retargeted to me on Facebook.
If companies can use your data to sell advertising space, how can the police, FBI, or other governmental agencies use your data?
What happens when laws change?
In the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, questions regarding data privacy have shot to the top.
Many are deleting their period tracking apps to protect their privacy in states that have banned or criminalized abortion.
Unfortunately, deleting the app does not always get rid of the data. In most cases, app stores back up their user’s data on a cloud server. This means it could be accessed regardless of whether an app is installed on the user’s local device.
To combat losing users, many app companies are scrambling to de-identify their data securing private and personal user information.
Of course, I’d be remiss to not point out that if the police want your data, all they need to do is show up at your house with a warrant and seize your devices. If the police show up on your doorstep with a warrant for your devices and belongings, they won’t need access to the app company or the cloud it’s stored on.
In the same way, a person could gain access to information by stealing your paper calendar off your desk. Still, the paper calendar can be destroyed a lot easier than a digital version.
Google’s data ecosystem shows where a person has traveled and what has been searched. Google is saying that they are not going to collect phone location data around abortion clinics, but it’s tricky to think about how they plan to do that. Still, the overall picture remains that if someone searches for the phone number to Planned Parenthood, Google has that information about them.
And the incognito window will not save anyone: searches are not private just because you use a private browser.
What these data concerns mean for entrepreneurs
How you interact with and use client data should be an important ethical aspect of your business system. What policies or procedures do you have in place to protect your users and those you serve?
As entrepreneurs, we must understand how the system works to better make decisions.
Right now, it’s not clear what rules and regulations the police and other government officials that access your data are required to follow… because we don’t have any federal laws or regulations on data privacy. A few states have enacted laws and regulations, but there is nothing overarching.
In the context of data privacy, our role as entrepreneurs is to reconsider how we use data and who is benefitting from that data usage. The same customers who trust us to give them good service or products expect us to keep their private information private.