Thursday, 27 November 2014

Will the Data Protection Taliban turn on Twitter?

Usually, when an extremely large organisation recalibrates their customers’ privacy expectations, we can expect howls of indignation to emerge from the fundamentalist wing of the data protection community.

So, on learning that Twitter was evidently going to snoop on every app in their customers’ phones, I sat back and waited for the reaction.

Have I heard anything from the Article 29 Working Party yet?    

Have I heard anything from the ICO yet?    

Have I heard anything from BigBrotherWatch yet?    

Perhaps Twitter isn’t the type of extremely large organisation that naturally attracts instant fury from the usual suspects.  After all, only 284 million people use Twitter every month.

Evidently, people are more concerned at whatever Google or Facebook might be doing with their customers’ information, rather than (relatively) tiny Twitter.

But things may change. When I recall the torrents of abuse that usually accompany any G or FB privacy announcement, even when they’re trying their hardest to make things more transparent to their customers, I do wonder how Twitter will deal with the feedback that will emerge.

Of course, it may be that Twitter fully briefed the Article 29 Working Party and the European Commission about its announcement, and stressed the ease with which customers will be able to object to Twitter automatically opting everyone into its new data collection service.

We can expect the usual concerns. Why should people have to opt out? Why is it the case that they have all been automatically opted in?

These are sorts of issues that I frequently help my clients deal with.

From a “privacy by default” perspective, I can understand why the DP Taliban would be upset.

But life isn’t always about opting in.  At least Twitter is being transparent about what they are doing, and they’ve developed a user education programme that informs individuals of the choices that are now before them. They’re trying to be innovative and are trying to remind customers of the “value exchange” that exists when people subscribe to a “free” service.

If Twitter’s users don’t want their apps to be logged, they can always object. And if they really really don’t like what’s happening, they can always cancel their Twitter account.