Keeping Up with Data Privacy Changes

Posted by Mike Fitch on Jun 30, 2021

As IT professionals, especially in the technology market, we play a pivotal role in helping businesses and consumers understand and enforce their right to data privacy. Between a global pandemic, the drastic rise in the number of connected IoT devices and more global social media users than ever before, World Social Media Day is a great opportunity to get up to speed on what is happening with data privacy so that you can better protect your data online.


Tracking Just Got Harder for Brands but More Private for Consumers


🎵 “No. Mind your own business.” 🎵 Did the catchy Delta 5 song from Apple’s new “Privacy” commercial just get stuck in your head like it’s been in mine for the last few weeks? Song aside, Apple’s new iOS 14.5 update unveiled App Tracking Transparency, or ATT, and will have a huge impact on the way e-commerce platforms engage with consumers, as all App Store apps are now required to request explicit permission to track activity within the app to serve a more customized app experience across apps. Of course, this means a decrease in tracking capabilities for advertisers, who will become more limited to the customized ad experiences users receive today.


There are two sides to the data privacy coin — on one side are the brands and advertisers, who rely on things like retargeting abandoned shopping carts, who need to re-think how they do social advertising. On the reverse side are the consumers, who are now given more autonomy to decide what their web, mobile and social experiences look like. If a user wants a more customized ad experience to follow them from app to app, they can simply “allow” when prompted. Other users who put a premium on privacy over customized experiences would ask the app not to track when prompted.


While this change impacts Apple devices (Androids, web traffic and organic social media efforts remain under existing standards), iPhone users make up a significant portion (about 47%) of the smartphone market, meaning significant impact for advertisers and marketers.


By the Numbers: Protecting Data in 2021

  • 164.7 million — estimated number of private records exposed in the United States
  • 83% of Americans have seen some type of targeted ad.
  • 84% of online customers will abandon an online purchase if the website isn’t secure
  • 93% of survey respondents believe it’s important to know who has access to your data, but only 9% believe they have “a lot of control” in this aspect.
  • $12,000 — the average loss for an individual account takeover victim
  • 70% of iPhone users currently share their unique Apple Identify for Advertisers (IDFA) with advertisers, which experts believe can drop to as low as 10% after the new iOS 14.5 update.
  • 46.9% of smartphone users are on an iPhone in 2021, compared to about 45.2% in 2019, a 3.8% rise in market share
  • 48% of Americans have interacted with companies and/or institutions via social media.
  • 68% of social media users are concerned that their personal information, like birth dates or addresses, could be hacked, especially post-pandemic while 29% also feel they are not equipped to prevent a cyberattack from happening.
  • 9% of digital users in the US think that digital privacy is a myth
  • 33% of the world’s internet users change their passwords regularly.

In the News: Antitrust Reform, US Privacy Expansion, the Death of Third-party Cookies

Federal court dismisses FTC and state antitrust complaint against Facebook — This week, a federal court dismissed a complaint from the FTC and 48 state attorneys general who claimed that Facebook maintains a monopoly, a decision that allows Instagram and WhatsApp to remain under Facebook control. The court ruled that there was not enough detailed data to prove Facebook has market power, largely due to the loosely defined “personal social networking services.” The FTC and attorneys general assumed the court would agree that Facebook is a monopoly, which opens the door for a follow-up complaint that includes amendments, as well as pushes the need for antitrust reform .


Colorado joins California and Virginia with new comprehensive privacy legislation — In 2018, the European Union implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a legal framework that sets guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information from individuals who live in the EU. Since then, individual states in the US have taken measures to pass their versions of comprehensive privacy legislation. Colorado passed the Colorado Privacy Act (CPA), joining the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and Virginia’s Consumer Data Protection Act (CDPA), which protects the sale and user of sensitive customer data and will be fully enforced by July 2023. Bills are pending for similar reform in 16 other states.


Delay in the sunsetting of third-party cookies — Third-party cookies, the pieces of code that follow you around the internet, are going away. Safari and Firefox have already phased them out, with plans from Google to do the same. This is a change that will also impact advertisers’ ability to truly dial in paid advertisements to a specific targeted audience and will now instead require them to rely on generalized advertising to things like demographic data. For example, as a 30-something male, I might receive an advertisement for a beach vacation, but not because I searched for flights to Hawaii or clicked a banner ad on another website. In March 2021, however, Google announced the move from third-party cookies to the Privacy Sandbox but plans to make this move at a “responsible pace,” phasing cookies out gradually through 2023. This delay allows advertisers to gradually adapt to expected changes.


Looking Ahead: Social Media Impact


Social media companies comprise the top data collectors, and in many cases, it’s because we offer it up to them ourselves. Between updating our profile bios, interests, work experiences and daily status updates, much of the information gathered comes directly from our keyboards. However, the element garnering the most attention from social is the tracking of activity: understanding user behavior through an advanced algorithm that tracks clicks, ad retargeting, likes, comments and other activity that more indirectly picks at a user’s privacy than a user offering it up themselves.


However, even by contributing less content to social media sites, it’s still extremely difficult to control your data privacy. So how can you better protect data on social media? For starters, we should read and understand privacy terms (you know, that large body of text we scroll through to check the acknowledgment?). Secondly, make sure you know the site’s limits and the privacy settings you have associated with your account. There may be situations where you think you’re posting updates to just your connections, friends or followers, but instead, it’s going out to a completely public audience. Third, make sure to remove sensitive, unnecessary context data from your profile. Depending on how you use your social media, often things like specific geographic locations, political party affiliation, sports fandom or bank information will collectively offer enough context for cybercriminals to piece together password options to get into your accounts. Here is an additional look at what you can do to stay safe on social media.

Between everything mentioned above, the online world is moving to one that is more private, secure and customizable for users to control their data. However, keeping data secure is up to us, collectively, to ensure we’re taking advantage of multifactor authentication methods and strong, secure passwords. As we continue to practice due diligence on our accounts, it’s also up to us to stay vigilant for security education, privacy controls and monitoring of suspicious activity to better help prevent data theft.


About the Author

TD Synnex Editor

Mike Fitch
Content marketer and communicator through and through. ASU grad with more than 10 years of B2B tech marketing/communications experience.