Big Tech Companies Are Adopting Transparency, And So Should You

May 02, 2019

Alexandra Matthews

It’s no secret that big tech companies’ data privacy practices have been put under the microscope over the past year. Executives from Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, among others, have been called before the Senate Commerce Committee for a public hearing regarding their use and protection of user data. Chances are, each time you visited the homepage of your favorite news outlet over the past year you were greeted with a story around the latest company Congress had called to testify.

Facebook arguably had the most to prove. CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent two days and nearly 10 hours testifying in front of Congress this time last year regarding the company’s data security practices around the high-profile 2016 election, Cambridge Analytica scandal, and beyond.

After years of continued misuse of user data, the duty is now on Facebook — and other big tech companies — to prove to its users that it is not only capable, but deserving of utilizing its user data to create better experiences for consumers. And Facebook appears to be dedicated to doing just that.

The company has received considerable pressure from Congress and its users, but Facebook appears to be learning from its experience, listening to its critics, and taking steps in the right direction.

Advocating for Stronger Data Regulation

Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg shared his new vision for Facebook with the primary focus on data privacy. The vision is centered on six key principles: private interaction, encryption, reducing permanence, safety, interoperability, and secure data storage. It is no coincidence that these are specific areas where Facebook’s integrity has come under question over the past few years.

These new guiding principles can — and should — be perceived as an effort by Facebook to take more responsibility to safeguard its users’ data, in addition to educating its users on how their data is being used, rather than leaving them to comprehend an ambiguous and jargon-filled consent notice.

While Facebook has been working to implement its own internal regulations, the company has another set of regulations it should also be preparing for under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). CCPA will require companies to provide an opt-out to data sharing, clear statements of what data is being collected or shared with third-parties, and the right for users to delete data about themselves. Facebook’s ability to comply with these new standards will be a crucial step in its journey to regain its users’ trust.

But the social giant does not seem deterred by CCPA. In fact, it’s calling for even more regulation. Recently Mark Zuckerberg began a petition for the internet as a whole to adopt new rules, leading the way for big tech companies to alter their strategy to put the user first. This is a refreshing narrative that I hope to see more companies support.

Establishing a User-First Culture

In the existing era of accelerating regulation, users are becoming increasingly aware of how their data is being used and their rights around that usage. Subsequently, it’s crucial for big tech companies’ success that they initiate a new relationship with users built on trust and transparency. There can be mutual value for both companies and users themselves from the insights garnered from their data. But before organizations continue profiting from these insights, they must prioritize and protect users.

Facebook’s actions have shown that the company is willing and wanting to reform its internal policies and processes around user data, establishing a user-first culture. It will be a long and bumpy road ahead, but the company has set off in the right direction.

Lessons for Companies from Facebook

Facebook’s mistakes and next steps should serve as a lesson to us all. Like Facebook, companies can work to gain the wary consumer’s trust by volunteering to be transparent instead of waiting for lawmakers to enforce transparency upon them. According to a study by Label Insight, 94% of consumers are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency, while 73% would pay more for a product that offers transparency.

Companies spend so much time trying to determine what consumers want that they miss the answer. Consumers want transparency. Rather than entirely focusing on how to utilize consumer data to achieve business success, companies should invest more resources in improving communication with consumers around how they utilize and protect their data. This means simpler privacy policies and clearer consent forms.

This will not be an easy change, but it is a necessary one.

At Ogury, we are committed to a user-first ecosystem and are both GDPR and also CCPA compliant. We believe in empowering end users to make informed decisions about their data and only generate data that users have explicitly opted-into sharing. We are dedicated to helping organizations move into a new era of data responsibility.

Interested in learning more about how we help organizations meet data regulation standards? Reach out to me at Evan@ogury.com

Evan Rutchik, CRO, USA