For all of Fox News’ bluster about how the US is number one, we have certainly fallen far behind the other democracies of the world as we slip into irrelevant oblivion. Here’s the latest example: the European Union’s General Data Collection Regulation. Fortunately for us, most companies (Facebook being most notably excluded) appear to be extending their compliance with the new EU rules to the United States as well. So we are benefitting from the EU’s law, with the exception of Facebook users. God forbid the US ever do anything to curb surveillance capitalism in this country, but Europe is having no more of it or at least a good bit less.
So what are some of the requirements of the new rules that go into effect on May 25, 2018? Well, for starters, those endless screens of fine print that do nothing but screw over end users who are forced to agree to them (even though no mere mortal can understand what they mean) in order to use their service are now history—in Europe anyway. The law emphasizes explicit user consent, user control over data collection, and clear explanations of what data is being gathered about the user with the user having the ability to correct and control that data.
…companies must be clear and concise about their collection and use of personal data like full name, home address, location data, IP address, or the identifier that tracks web and app use on smartphones. Companies have to spell out why the data is being collected and whether it will be used to create profiles of people’s actions and habits. Moreover, consumers will gain the right to access data companies store about them, the right to correct inaccurate information, and the right to limit the use of decisions made by algorithms, among others.”
— Source: Wired’s article, Europe’s New Privacy Law Will Change The Web, And More
So yesterday, I decided to tackle Google’s new security dashboard that is supposedly designed to give me control over my data. I deleted everything they have collected about my search history. I turned off, or “paused” as they call it, their use of artificial intelligence to predict (utterly inaccurately might I add) what I’m trying to search for online.1 I “paused” their use of location data when I search.
I found of great interest the language Google used to describe what they are doing. These people are very bright and very clever. To me, they appeared to be downplaying the explicit meaning of, almost obfuscating, their use of artificial intelligence, for example.
I have long lamented that Google searches seem far more about producing sales than the actual information for which I’m searching. I’ve felt for years now that, based on ad sales and marketing, a Google search hides more information from me than it produces. I have longed for the good old days when I could find information from any number of sources around the world and not have my search results limited to US marketing efforts.
I noticed an immediate change in my search results, especially on YouTube. I did a search for electric scooter and got videos from all over the world, most of them not in English. (Asia is, after all, a very big place!) Learning to self-select search restrictions will be an initial challenge, but one I suspect I’ll find worth the effort.
So, a huge thank you to the EU for doing what American politicians have refused to do: take on the surveillance state to protect ordinary people from being further victimized and manipulated by the wealthy and powerful. I will find this new journey interesting indeed. Now, having the US politicians come up to speed would be a nice thing, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
PS: I’m delighted Britain is demanding the answers from Facebook that the US just glossed over and let slide about how that company, IMHO, abuses its user base. Zuckerberg repeatedly said he would have to get back with the US representatives who requested answers. I suspect he was avoiding, at all cost, having the truth, the facts, entered into the public record. Facebook must assuredly not want users to know what they are doing with their data. I’ve read that Facebook now has an EU version of their platform to satisfy the new EU GDCR, and then the old surveillance version for the rest of us suckers. I remain delighted I delighted my account.
Eli Pariser has referred to this as the filter bubble. ↩