The privacy debate has been rumbling on for some time now. However, the pressure is getting to a point where something has to break. Most companies are dragging their feet even as the tide of resentment rises around them.
Regulation to date has been toothless. GDPR rules in Europe had made little difference to most (some EU departments were not GDPR ready when the rules came into force), and users are faced with the same fundamental decision. If you want to use an app or a service, you blindly agree to the terms and conditions. Now, of course, we have options, but how many people are patient enough to wade through them.
Some years ago, a telecoms executive asked a New York lawyer to analyse Apple’s T&Cs and report back. The lawyer sifted and analysed and was none the wiser. The answer, he said, was that the company could demand your firstborn; the rules were that opaque.
A property company in the UK sends out a lease agreement before renting a property. On page three (paragraph 2, subsection 3), it says, ‘if you ring this number, we will bring round a bottle of very good whisky, right now.’ Renters are required to read through the agreement, sign it and send it back.
No whisky has ever been delivered.
There is, however, a new twist in the privacy debate, and while it comes from the US, it has global implications.
Lina Khan, the new FTC Chair, has recently discovered just how much data ISPs collect on their customers, and it is ‘staggering.’
This we knew. What is different is that the report uncovered that, while ISPs might offer the new ‘options’ to their customers, in reality, they were unable to implement those options through design flaws. Some ISPs keep data for as long as they want.
It is possible, as Jouko Ahvenainen says, that people are now ready to take control of their data and, as he points out, Apple is leading the way in allowing this new ‘freedom’ – and winning the game.
The privacy debate will go on, for sure. What is also for sure is that there are some seriously clever, determined people (Khan has been working on new rules for big tech for some time) who are prepared to champion the customer and, finally, the tide might be turning.