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

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 is grabbing our personal information and decide if we wanted it. One point for transparency.

It is common knowledge that the great 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 sharpen services and to generate revenues that user information is sold either directly to other companies or indirectly through targeted advertising portion. The people who drive Google searches are not the customers of Google Search. Google customers pay for access to 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 so much worse when we learn these companies treat us like commodities. For example, I’ve previously written about how diet companies like Weight Watchers have encouraged people to submit their DNA for evaluations in unsupported (and probably unsustainable) claims that a genetically personalized diet will help people to lose weight. Once the company has the key code to your physical makeup, what do you do with that information? Does it sell this DNA information to others, collect a huge database of customer DNA reads and use it for drug development, or just run its own analyzes to learn more about effective marketing for you? Diet companies don’t say any ways they will use this data, but if ancestry DNA programs are any guide, then almost every option is on the table.

The diet industry may seem to have their customers’ interests at heart, but these companies have been known to push the boundaries of marketing. The Weight Watchers society was be 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 registration process of applying encouraged young users to falsely claim to be above 13 years, despite text shown to children under 13 that they needed to sign with a parent. » This company has been in the process of itself as a brand recast the way of lifeincluding the addition of a digital community called “Connect” which adds another useful data feed on its paying customers.

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

You also don’t expect your tax assistant to vacuum your personal data. The Washington Post pledged a data survey of leading tax preparation organizations have noted “the little-discussed evolution of the tax preparation software industry from mere tax-preparation processors to profiteers of personal data. It’s the Facebookization of personal finance. Although there is a privacy law preventing tax preparation firms from disclosing the contents of their clients’ tax returns to anyone beyond the tax authorities, large tax firms “you ask to grant them 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 customer upselling “personalized service” and as promoting personalization of tax preparation experience to your individual needs. If only they could find a reason for you to send a DNA sample, their personalization data could really take off. The DNA as a great help in tax preparation as it does in dietary recommendations. The Post reports that H & R Block asks to share your data with its affiliates abroad. You can choose not to do it, and you can revoke permission after jumping through some hoops. The Post points out that the tax company Intuit ‘recently acquired Credit Karma, whose entire business model … asks you to pay with your privacy for free services such as credit ratings. “It is clear that the tax preparation companies like Intuit saw their future revenues from treating their tax preparation customers like the hungry customers-data products business. They collected a tax preparation herd, and now they are milking it.

Other types of consulting firms on life, beyond food and the preparation of tax returns, will surely move into this data-rich area and attract paying customers for data more 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 an advisor relationship. Make sure you understand what benefits the “premium package” provides, because you’re probably paying for it with money and bits of your privacy. If you send or allow the collection of additional sensitive information, make sure you understand what the seller 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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