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Oct 28, 2021 4 min read

Surveillance and Lack of Data Privacy in the US is Under Scrutiny

Wiser! Essay: It seems that user data and privacy is not so well respected in the USA. Give a Corporation an inch and they'll take a mile.


I love the debates and contrast of the East versus the West when it comes to the use of Tech and the issue of privacy and surveillance. Authoritarian China compared to the American Land of the Free.

Two separate reports show the reach of BigTech and the extent of breaches of data privacy and surveillance in the US.

First, America's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has said that it is looking into the role of BigTech in the online payments industry. They want to find out how BigTech is using spending and personal data in their business plans, who they sell it to, and what choices they are providing users on how private data is being used.

They have requested detailed information from the likes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, PayPal, and Square on how they collect and use people's spending data.

In addition, the agency is also looking into Chinese payment providers WeChat Pay and Alipay. They want to understand the business model for the duo, who dominate cashless payments in China by combining messaging, e-commerce and payment functionality into super-apps.

Meanwhile, US Internet Service provides are selling the location and usage data of their customers even though they agreed not to.

This is the conclusion after the US Federal Trade Commission published its report last week on the data privacy behaviour of 6 ISPs. They found that many internet service providers are sharing data about their customers, in defiance of an agreement in 2018 to NOT sell and share data.

The report also found that the ISPs are failing to give subscribers adequate choices about whether or how their data is shared.

At the end of July, I reported on the story of mobile carriers in the US selling data after it emerged that data brokers could triangulate "anonymous" data to identify individuals. This is in spite of all four major US wireless carriers having pledged in 2018 to stop selling their mobile customers' location information to third-party data brokers.

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So what?

The point is that as long as commercial enterprises can exploit the notion that "data is the new oil", they will. Even if they are not permitted to do so. They ignore the rules because the fines are less than the upside. It's just the cost of doing business.

In China, they are clamping down hard and fast. imposing a strict crackdown. In the West, action is slow and considered. It's a days versus years comparison.

The FTC report is here 👉 https://bit.ly/2ZsB78O
The CFPB report is here 👉 https://bit.ly/3pwsftr

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