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There’s Whitewashing, Greenwashing & now also Privacywashing

Blog. With some big data companies twisting and even abusing privacy terms, we need to be very careful in distinguishing the true privacy and data ethical companies and practices from those who are clearly ‘privacy washing’ or in a nicer term; privacy charlatans. With more and more worry over lack of data control from individuals, we are seeing privacy washing all over – with Facebook leading the way.

At the privacy conference in Brussels, CPDP, in January 2016 it became cleaFB PbDr that privacy washing – pretending to be working with true data protection – is going to be big. At the conference a Facebook representative told us that Facebook is working with Privacy by Design. See the Facebook-speakers’ powerpoint slide to the right. I thought I heard him wrong and had to ask him at the end of the speak, if this was really what he meant:

“I thought Facebook was public by default, are you really implementing privacy by design?”

The answer was crystal clear: “YES“.

There are many companies making privacy promises on a false premise. Think of the Canadian Ashley Madison promising customers to delete everything, once they leave the service or Swedish Spotify suddenly changing its privacy policy to get access to everything in your smartphone.

For years there have been warnings against privacy honeypots. With ‘privacy’ setting Facebook is showing the bad example by giving people a false sense of security deluding them into the belief that they can actually be private at Facebook, which we all know is not true. Just check out the stalking tool

Very few people actually speak up and react against this, and many privacy advocates even take money from companies clearly interested in privacy washing – with Aral Balkan as a lonely brave exception saying no to speaking at CPDP because of the sponsor-list. I myself participated in CPDP knowing that Facebook was a sponsor!!

Some companies actively help Facebook in privacy washing. The latest example just came out this month with the release of this blog post :

Facebook: a new paradigm for personal data? For the last eighteen months we (Ctrl-Shift) have been working with Facebook on a global consultation exercise to discover what needs to be done to create a sustainable, trust-driven data economy.

Try with your own transparency, Facebook

Facebook and Ctrl-Shift have released this new report on how to ‘create a positive and sustainable future for personal data’. As if this is a job for Facebook. After having made individuals transparent (yes, I know people join themselves, but how many understand, what they  say yes to, and how voluntary is the joining? It takes more courage to stay away from Facebook), Facebook is now trying to market itself as a privacy-enhancing model? May be Facebook, who is today on of the most powerful players in the world, in stead should start being transparent it self. Have you seen this documentary Facebookistan by Jakob Gottshau on how non-transparent and undemocratic Facebook really is? I a true democracy the strong and powerful (government and companies) are transparent, the weak (individuals) can decide themselves how transparent they want to be.

Facebook praises the regulation it dreads

Facebook is going very far in its privacy washing. Just read this ‘Refocus the data debate around individuals’ where Facebook is praising European data regulation (which it dreads!) and is also welcoming a new trend, Personal Data Stores.

Personal Data Stores, PDS, Personal Information Managemen Systems, PIMs or Vendor Relationship Management, VRM , are some of the names of this new trend trying to change the digital infrastructure from multinational power into individual self-determination. The opposite of Facebook. Read and hear more about this trend at this DataEthics meeting in Copenhagen in September or at MyData-conference in Finland end August.

The worst that can happen now is that Facebook starts calling it self a Personal Data Store. But looking back, it will probably succeed with this also.