Tech Companies Are Quietly Phasing Out a Major Privacy Safeguard

The silhouette of a man looking at a bright computer screen
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/09/what-happened-transparency-reports/599035/

This article from The Atlantic delves into the intricacies of data being gathered by giant tech companies. It discusses the implementation of transparency reports which is a document detailing the type of information being gathered of its users by tech companies. According to the author of this article these transparency reports used to be a widely acknowledged and well used resource available to the public. This initial interest in following the data came after the Edward Snowden crisis, where it was revealed that sensitive information was being collected and utilized by federal agencies. These reports lost their intial importance as tech companies stopped making them almost entirely to preserve their own vested interests.

Basically after a few years of relative data transparency, tech companies specifically internet providers stopped caring about transparency reports all together by changing the service providers of their customer base to providers who didn’t care about data transparency. Other tech companies changed their policies to not include what demands where being made by the federal government in what data they wanted. Consumers were aware of the data being collected, but were denied the reasoning behind the data collection. Data privacy activists have pushed for transparency reports to be made common place again, but the public by-in-large seems to not care about why the federal government wants their data in the first place.

There has been some push back against these questionable data policies. A bill passed in California last year, the California Consumer Privacy Act helped protect consumer protection and privacy rights, but had zero mention of reimplementing data transparency reports. Former President of Californians for Consumer Privacy Mary Stone Ross said in a quote that “We decided to only focus on the private collection of information rather than government collection” and that “During the campaign phase [we] were worried that the opposition would argue that the CCPA would undermine law enforcement investigations.” (Pegoraro, The Atlantic). It’s clear that most people don’t care what information tech companies hand over to the federal government, but care immensly that tech companies sell data collected on them to advertisers. I personally don’t agree with this line of thinking, I believe that transparency reports are more vital to consumer safety, and that the government shouldn’t be allowed to demand consumer data from tech companies.

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