• Helen Pritchett

Data in the news – our monthly round up of some of the top data stories making the headlines

Getting Petty with Data Complaints?

The knives are out again for Boris Johnson as his opponents in the leadership race accuse him of breaching data laws. But is it really a storm in a teacup?

Johnson is facing questions over whether his leadership campaign has breached data laws after his rival Jeremy Hunt received unsolicited ‘Back Boris’ material to his personal email address.

We all agree that data breaches are wrong, but is this actually a breach? Whilst Hunt said he “definitely” had not signed up to Johnson’s 2019 leadership campaign mailing list, he and his buddies had previously signed up to support Johnson in London Mayoral elections. Whilst having dropped a proverbial by not removing Hunt and his team and known supporters from the email list, Johnson is within his rights to email those who had previously supported him under one of the 6 legal bases of the GDRP; legitimate interest. The fact that within the email he acknowledges this previous support, requests recipients continue to support him by opting in and says that he will only continue to contact those who do, is surely beyond reproach? We hope the ICO will throw this complaint into the “Really?!” pile and get on with investigating actual data breaches #timewasting #itstimetogovernnotbicker #fightfair.

BBC data box

BBC audience members could soon be using data from their social media and online accounts to fine tune the content they listen to and view. The BBC is developing a personal data store that analyses information from multiple sources to filter content.

The prototypes of the BBC Box draw on profiles people have built up on Spotify, Instagram and the BBC iPlayer. The BBC will not store data for users. Instead, preferences will be kept in the Box so they can be reused.

The project is seen as "disruptive" because individuals will decide what they use their data for themselves. The Box is part of a larger European project seeking to give people more control over their data.

A "profiler" application analyses the data in the Box. But fear not, your data will be safe, and you will be in control of it. The profile recommends events, holidays, music and activities, as well as BBC shows, but the BBC will have no access to the data in the Box. "No third party, not even the BBC itself, can access any data in the Box unless it is authorised by the person using it," it says.

Amazon Alexa; Trust No-one

It might be redolent of The X-Files, but if you have an Amazon Alexa or Echo in your house you would be well advised to trust no-one. Not all is as it seems with Alexa and the company has been forced to admit it stores personal data of its users even after they have deleted it via the Alexa App. Shock horror: company stores personal data when it has previously denied doing so! It’s all a bit over dramatic, isn’t it?! When you buy an Alexa you, should be, aware that she is always listening, and she needs to store data in order to provide the services you want to use.

However, we do put our trust in big brands, and we do believe them when they reassure us that they aren’t misusing our personal data. So, it is a shock to find they’ve been lying. Big brands telling big fibs is a big no-no in this day and age.

The revelations, outlined explicitly by Amazon in a letter to Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), which was published today and dated June 28th, sheds even more light on the company’s privacy practices with regard to its digital voice assistant.

Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, said the company is engaged in an “ongoing effort to ensure those transcripts do not remain in any of Alexa’s other storage systems.” In other words, even if a user manually deletes the audio version, some text versions are still saved in separate storage systems for some unknown amount of time. Yet, in certain cases where Amazon deems the feature set of Alexa would be hindered by deleting data, the company decides to hold on to some version of the data.

Is GDPR working?

An interesting article giving background and a current analysis of whether The GDPR is working as intended. Moneyweek’s opinion is “GDPR has greatly increased the number of data breaches reported to the authorities by companies and organisations. In the UK, total reported breaches in 2019 are estimated to be about 36,000, nearly twice the previous annual rate of around 20,000. Doubling that number is no small achievement, reckons Josephine Wolff on Slate.com. Across Europe, the first nine months of GDPR showed 206,000 cases recorded, which included 95,000 complaints and 65,000 data-security breach notifications. That is a valuable trove of information about customers whose personal data has been compromised, and for regulators and technology designers trying to understand and mitigate the root causes of breaches. However, it’s much less clear that GDPR has had much impact on corporate fines for mishandling personal data.”

Customers don’t trust retailers with data

With reference to the article on whether The GDPR is working, Drapers Online has recently published stats on the lack of trust consumers have on whether fashion retailers are to be trusted with their personal data. Apparently Two-thirds (67%) of shoppers do not trust fashion retailers to act responsibly and to protect their personal data.

More data in the news coming soon!

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