Amazon, Google, Facebook and other large companies using your data

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One of the benefits of GDPR and similar US privacy laws is that many companies are forced, cajoled, or encouraged to seek permission before capturing, analyzing, repackaging, and selling the information they collect. they collect about you. Apps delivered under the new laws draw attention to behind-the-scenes data activity, whereas previous versions would have quietly hidden the evidence.

So now we are more likely to see when a website collects our personal information and decide if we like it. Score one for transparency.

It is common knowledge that the huge companies created by the Internet – Google, Amazon and Facebook in particular – have been built on a platform of user data, both for internal analysis to refine services and for revenue generation, as user information is sold either directly to other companies or indirectly by serving targeted advertisements. The people who run Google searches are not the customers of Google Search. Google customers pay to access searchers and their searches. If you are not paying for a service on the Internet, you are the product sold to paying customers.

But if you pay for the service, can you also be the product? Sure. A look at Amazon’s business model shows that Amazon Prime customers – shoppers of books, underwear and chili crisps – are the targets of advertising from the e-commerce king and its partner companies . But we also always knew that Amazon’s deal involved online data. What about companies outside of the e-commerce realm that we reach out to for specific areas of support and expertise?

It seems to hurt even more when we learn that these companies treat us like commodities. For example, I’ve previously written about how diet companies like Weight Watchers encouraged people to submit their DNA for evaluations, making unsubstantiated (and probably unsupportable) claims that a genetically personalized diet would help people to lose weight. Once the company has the key code for your physical composition, what will they do with this information? Will he sell this DNA information to others, gather a huge database of customer DNA reads and use it for drug development, or will he run simply its own analyzes to learn more about effective marketing for you? Diet companies don’t say all the ways they’ll use this data, but if ancestry DNA programs are any guide, then almost every option is on the table.

The grocery industry may seem to have the best interests of its customers at heart, but these companies are known for pushing the boundaries of marketing. Weight Watchers was being sued by the Federal Trade Commission for using a diet app to illegally collect information from children as young as eight without parental consent. The Guardian wrote: “The FTC alleged that the app’s registration process encouraged young users to falsely claim they were over 13, despite text telling children under 13 that they had to register with a parent.” This company is redesigning itself as a lifestyle brand, including adding a digital community called “Connect” which adds another useful data feed about its paying customers.

Is all this new data being used to sell more subscriptions and services, or will they sell these customers to third parties for different types of sales? Twice as expensive for a basic subscription, new diet company Noom is structured for the digital age with interactive daily content, intrusive online quizzes, and encouraged interactions with other users. More data means more ways to use it.

You also don’t expect your tax assistant to vacuum your personal data. The Washington Post undertook a data survey of top tax preparation organizations uncovering “the little-discussed evolution of the tax preparation software industry from mere tax-preparation processors to personal data profiteers. . It’s the Facebookization of personal finance. Although there is a federal privacy law preventing tax preparation firms from disclosing the contents of their clients’ tax returns to anyone outside of the tax authorities, large tax firms “request you to grant special permission to go beyond these federal default protections and use your return – including your income, investments, and mortgage details – to help them sell other things to you.

Companies call this upsell “personalized service” and market it as customizing the tax preparation experience to suit your individual needs. If only they could find a reason why you’re sending a DNA sample, then personalizing their data could really take off. DNA is as useful in preparing statements as it is in dietary recommendations. The Post reports that H&R Block is asking to share your data with its overseas affiliates. You can choose not to, and you can revoke permission after going through a few steps. The Post points out that tax firm Intuit “recently acquired Credit Karma, whose entire business model…asks you to pay with your privacy for free services like credit scores.” So it’s clear that tax preparation companies like Intuit see their future revenue flowing from treating their tax preparation clients as products for data-hungry business customers. They gathered a flock that prepares taxes, and now they milk it.

Other types of life consulting businesses, beyond food and tax preparation, are surely moving into this data-rich space and attracting paying customers for ever-increasing data. economically more valuable. Real estate agents, accountants, bartenders, feng shui consultants – all of our advisors and vendors can adopt this data-centric model. Who knows what your cleaner picks up on your behavior?

Read your options carefully before entering into a relationship with an advisor. Make sure you fully understand the benefits of the “premium package” because you’re probably paying for it with cash and bits of your privacy. If you send or allow the collection of extremely sensitive information, confirm that you understand what the provider will use the data for. New laws allow a wider window into the data habits of your advisors. Take advantage of new knowledge.

Copyright © 2022 Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 111

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