At CES 2019, one theme failed to be talked about. User privacy. For a show that purports to be about the most important tech products in the world, CES had shockingly little to say about it. Well, with CES 2020 going on this week – the show had a panel to talk about consumer data. CES had a panel that involved Chief Privacy Officers from various tech companies to answer the question: What Do Consumers Want?
The panel had Apple show up in official capacity to talk about privacy and not post a billboard ad on a hotel wall strategically overlooking the Las Vegas Convention Center mocking the other companies. This was the first time in 28 years, Apple showed up.
Apple was being represented by Jane Horvath, Apple’s senior director of global privacy. She was joined in by other guests that included Rebecca Slaughter, Commissioner for the Federal Trade Commission, Susan Shook, The Procter & Gamble Company’s Global Privacy Officer, Erin Egan, Facebook’s VP, Public Policy and Chief Privacy Officer. The talk was moderated by Rajeev Chand, Partner and Head of Research at Wing Venture Capital.
The Privacy roundtable was packed – hosting close 470 attendees for a room that had enough space for 450 people. The discussion was so interesting that 100 more people had to be redirected to another room where the session was being live-streamed.
Early this week, Facebook announced an update to its Privacy Checkup tool that was an effort by the social media giant to protect users after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The tool lets you change settings that include reviewing who can see your profile, send you friend requests, enabling login alerts and reviewing permission settings for third-party apps. The Data Settings category also provides a place where you can revoke permissions and access for apps and websites for which they’ve used Facebook to log in. In as much as its a good thing, Facebook doesn’t address privacy around the platform such as how they track you even when you’ve deactivated your account.
When tech giants Apple and Facebook were together at a privacy panel – it was a time for each company to showcase how they take privacy seriously.
Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer kept touting Facebook’s privacy measures are as good as Apple’s every time Apple privacy chief Jane Horvath mentioned Apple’s efforts to protect user data such as limiting their facial recognition algorithms to devices instead of running that data on Apple’s servers.
“Everything that Jane said at Apple completely resonates with how we approach privacy at Facebook, so I don’t want to repeat that privacy by design,” Erin Egan added, “It’s a different service we offer, but that doesn’t mean that one is more privacy protected than the other. We are committed to privacy, we build privacy by design in all of our products, just like Jane.”
FTC commissioner Rebecca Slaughter challenged Erin on why Facebook’s privacy settings unlike Apple’s aren’t enabled by default.
“I am concerned about a universe where the entirety of the burden to protect one’s data lies with the consumers. Even if consumers can walk through a privacy checkup, the amount of information that you have to process to figure out what is happening with your data is untenable for most consumers,” Rebecca said.
“We use differential privacy to inject noise into the dataset. So that is one way that we’re protecting the consumer, without making them make a choice,” Jane said noting how Apple uses random identifiers so that data they collect isn’t tied to a person or a device.
The Facebook representative couldn’t say the same in this case.
The two tech giants have been at loggerheads for a while now when it came to privacy with Apple revoking Facebook developers’ access to iPhone users in January 2018 since the Zuckerberg-owned platform abused the privilege to collect data from teens.
The battle to ensure users privacy is properly protected will never end.
“The amount of data that is collected about any individual in this room — I don’t think anyone could tell us directly who has what data about them and how it is used,” Rebecca concluded.