In this day and age, data protection and privacy on the Internet are being increasingly scrutinised by people all around the world. How are big companies like Google, Amazon and Twitter protecting their users and ensuring that the information and data that they collect aren’t misused?
At CES 2021, representatives from Google (Keith Enright, Chief Privacy Officer), Twitter (Damien Kieran, Chief Privacy Officer) and Amazon (Anne Toth, Director, Alexa Trust) came together with Head of Research for Wing Venture Capital, Rajeev Chand, to discuss what 2021 has in store for data protection, privacy and legal regulations.
When asked what was the most important thing to work on in 2021, whether it be in terms of privacy or trust, Anne Toth emphasised that technology has become even more important in our lives in 2020, and that Amazon Alexa has helped families separated by COVID-19 to come together and stay in touch when living apart, and with that, she stated that it is now “more essential for us to demonstrate again and again, over and over, the ways in which we’re raising the bar on privacy and transparency and trust for our customers.”
Keith Enright agreed, stating that they have seen an acceleration of the adoption of technology and how people are relying upon Google’s products and services more than they have before. As a result, Google’s priority is to “help do everything we can to keep users safe online. That means, continuing in the work that we’ve done in the past on privacy and data protection to do an even better job of explaining to users and innovating on controls. But it also means doing things like helping to work across the industry and with regulators and others to identify opportunities where we can meaningfully improve the privacy and security that governs users’ behaviour online.”
With the Biden administration set to take office in just under a week, it remains to be seen what sort of new regulations could be enacted with regards to data protection and privacy in the United States. The speakers were all generally positive though, with Keith Enright stating that he expected privacy and data protection to be on the long list of important work that the Biden administration would be tackling early on and Damien Kieran agreeing that it should be within the first 180 days of President-Elect Biden taking office.
Damien Kieran spoke more on transparency and his belief that by allowing the consumer to understand what’s being done with their data, it will build trust. “Before I engage with the service, or while I’m engaging with the service, I know what it’s doing. And then I can make a decision (..) I get this level of transparency into what’s being done, and I can control whether I’m okay with that,” he said. “Transparency is just an incredibly empowering tool for trust.”
The conversation then dived into each company’s policies and roadmap for privacy, with Keith Enright confirming Google’s plans to phase out third-party cookies on Chrome is still on track to be accomplished by 2022 and that the company is confident they’re headed in the right direction.
Damien Kieran was hit with a more difficult question on Twitter’s €450,000 GDPR fine from Irish regulators after disclosing a data breach past the 72-hour deadline and whether it’s a precursor for more fines in the future.
He admitted that the fine set a “fairly hard line to folks that 72 hours means 72 hours”, but commended the Irish regulators for putting in the effort to get the process elements right and agreed that there definitely will be more fines in the industry in the near term.
It’s a fine line to walk between data collection for services like AI and keeping personal information and data safe and secure, but it’s definitely something that big tech companies are increasingly looking to be more transparent about so as to better build trust amongst their users.
Written by Cheryl Tan