One down side to the emergence of user control of data collection and access as a political meme and substitute for reasoned argument is the likely countermove from the surveillance industry: conflating the user's right to privacy with the corporation's responsibility for confidentiality. Surveillance is unethical and irresponsible even when the corporation carefully manages third-party access to the dossiers it compiles.
“When the Business Model Is the Privacy Violation”
Arvind Narayanan, Freedom to Tinker, April 12, 2018
In other situations, the intended use is the privacy violation. The most prominent example is the tracking of our online and offline habits for targeted advertising. This business model is exactly what people object to, for a litany of reasons: targeting is creepy, manipulative, discriminatory, and reinforces harmful stereotypes. The data collection that enables targeted advertising involves an opaque infrastructure to which it's impossible to give meaningfully informed consent. …
In response to privacy laws, companies have tried to find technical measures that obfuscate the data but allow them [to] carry on with the surveillance business as usual. But that's just privacy theater. Technical steps that don't affect the business model are of limited effectiveness, because the business model is fundamentally at odds with privacy; this is in fact a zero-sum game. …
Privacy advocates should recognize that framing a concern about data use practices as a privacy problem is a double-edged sword. Privacy can be a convenient label for a set of related concerns, but it gives industry a way to deflect attention from deeper ethical questions by interpreting privacy narrowly as confidentiality.
Now that Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and their friends are pretty well established as commonplace services in homes, apartments, and hotel rooms, and people have demonstrated their willingness to accept and rely on devices with always-on microphones and cameras, the companies that make them are sneaking more weasel words into their nominal commitments to user privacy.
The peg for this story is the reporter's discovery of patent applications, filed by Amazon and Google, for using the data generated by continuous monitoring of the always-on mikes to target advertising more accurately, to determine people's moods, to infer their state of health, to find out whether a child is up to some minor mischief (and generate an appropriate reprimand), and so on. As the reporter points out, companies often generate patent applications like these regardless of whether they have any intention of using the technology (and, indeed, regardless of whether the technology would actually work). On the other hand, such documents reveal how the big surveillance capitalism companies are thinking about the future of their products and express in a more genuine and sincere way the companies' attitudes towards the privacy of their users.
“Hey, Alexa, What Can You Hear? And What Will You Do with It?”
Sapna Maheshwari, The New York Times, March 31, 2018
Bruce Schneier provides a nice overview of the mechanics of surveillance capitalism and expresses the hope that government regulation will bring it under control eventually, even though he doesn't expect Congress to produce any such regulation “anytime soon.”
“It's Not Just Facebook. Thousands of Companies Are Spying On You”
Bruce Schneier, CNN.com, March 26, 2018
Schneier also offers another solution, which likewise strikes me as wishful thinking:
One of the responses to the Cambridge Analytica scandal is that people are deleting their Facebook accounts. It's hard to do right, and doesn't do anything about the data that Facebook collects about people who don't use Facebook. But it's a start. The market can put pressure on these companies to reduce their spying on us, but it can only do that if we force the industry out of its secret shadows.
Schneier advances this idea so diffidently and undercuts it so thoroughly with his qualifications that I find it difficult to take this passage seriously. #DeleteFacebook has become a meme, and that's a vaguely hopeful sign, but the account deleters are not going to exert any significant market pressure unless they become at least as numerous as the thousands of new users who join Facebook every day.
“Please: Let's Be Real about Facebook”
Michael Stoner, Inside Higher Ed, February 8, 2018
Let me repeat: it gets results. for that reason — and because so many people use Facebook — it's become integral to higher ed marketing, communications, and advancement strategies. …
Let's agree that the only recourse we have is to get used to having our attention sold or stop using these services. But let's not be shocked that Facebook is doing exactly what it's designed to do.