Privacy updates by tech companies: Are they protecting you from online snooping now?

  • TECH
  • Friday, 10 Aug 2018

Users like Sharma have forced Facebook and other technology companies with access to user data, to revise their privacy policies.

Rakesh Sharma, a 35-year-old teacher from West Bengal, has become more cautious about sharing data or commenting on Facebook, ever since the Cambridge Analytica incident that compromised the data of millions of Facebook users.

“I now regularly review my privacy settings in Facebook to see who is allowed to view or comment on my posts and which apps have been authorised to access my Facebook data. I have also begun to read the fine print in the privacy policy more attentively,” he says.

Users like Sharma have forced Facebook and other technology companies with access to user data, to revise their privacy policies, making them a lot simpler and easier for users to understand.

Facebook: Under the new policy, Facebook has made its terms and data policy clearer through explainers on what information it collects and how it is shared, while maintaining that it doesn’t sell user data. The social network has also updated its Privacy Shortcut menu putting all the privacy options, such as who can see a user’s posts or profile info and who can send friend requests, in one place. These were earlier scattered under various categories within the Facebook settings menu. The social network now also allows users to restrict ad targeting in favour of more generic ads. Users can also download their entire activity history, which includes all posts, uploads, likes and comments.

Twitter: Like Facebook, Twitter also collects data based on users’ activities on the platform, from websites which include content from Twitter and contact details to show more personalised ads to users. Users can now opt out of personalised ads and restrict the microblogging platform from tracking user activity in web pages with Twitter content, and share the non-public data with their business partners.

Google: With the recent privacy policy update, Google has made the terms of its privacy policy easier to understand by giving more examples, and using videos and illustrations to explain things to users. The Activity Controls page in My Accounts, now shows simple on/off switches to control location history, Web and app activity, and YouTube search history.

Are these changes applicable to India too?

Most of these updates are not limited to any particular country where stronger privacy laws exist. They have been rolled out everywhere. However, unlike the European Union, which is now governed by the General Data Protection Regulation, or California, which has passed a similar regulation, India does not have strong data privacy laws even as the country’s regulators are mulling the introduction of new privacy and data protection laws. The draft Personal Data Protection Bill 2018, laid down by Justice Srikrishna Commission, is the first step in that direction. — Mint/Tribune News Service

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