A thumbs down for streaming privacy

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is a collection of past columns . There is a phrase about the personal informatio...


This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is a collection of past columns.

There is a phrase about the personal information collection practices of free digital services that sell advertisements, including Facebook and weather apps: if you don’t pay for the product, you are the product.

But sometimes you can pay for a product and be the product.

Common sense media, a non-profit organization defense group for children and families, published a report This week, it was found that many of the most popular streaming services and TV streaming gadgets in the United States, such as Netflix, Roku, and Disney +, did not meet the group’s minimum requirements for streaming practices. privacy and security. The only exception was Apple.

We got used to the corporate arms race to track every mouse click and credit card swipe. But what’s surprising about the group’s report is that the streaming entertainment products that people pay for out of pocket have some of the same data habits as sites like Facebook and Google that make their money renting our money. data for advertising money.

“This should be a wake-up call for streaming platforms,” James P. Steyer, Managing Director of Common Sense Media, told me. “These platforms can and should do better, and I think they will.”

The organization said streaming companies could do more to keep the data they collect from U.S. households to themselves, provide exceptions to their information practices to better protect children and provide more information. ‘assurances that personal data will not be used to bombard customers with advertisements all over the Internet or feed into the records created by data intermediaries.

The researchers have previously analyzed the data habits of some streaming products. What Common Sense Media did with this latest report was cleverly comprehensive. It looked at the privacy policies of 10 online video services, like HBO Max, and five streaming devices, including Amazon’s Roku and Fire TV. The organization also has computer systems in place to track where digital information has gone as it leaves streaming video applications or devices.

Common Sense Media found that most of the companies in its analysis could use information about what people do on their services to tailor ads to customers all over the Internet, or allow other companies to do the same. He could see, for example, that many streaming companies were passing data to Amazon and Google’s advertising companies.

Some streaming companies, including Netflix, say they usually don’t let other companies know what we’re watching during a Friday night frenzy session. Others in the analysis leave open the possibility that information about what we watch may be used for targeted advertising or other purposes.

Data from streaming companies could also end up with companies compiling tons of information like what brand of toothpaste you buy from the store and what you do on your phone. And Common Sense Media said some efforts to offer customers informed consent are too complicated. For example, the organization said Amazon asked users of a Fire streaming gadget to click 25 policies to use the device, plus two more to use its Alexa voice assistant.

The organization said that Apple, which touts its consumer privacy principles but don’t always deliver to his declared ideals, had stronger protections in its Apple TV + streaming video service and its TV connector gadget called Apple TV than the others reviewed.

(Apple helps fund a Common Sense Media news education program for schools, and it is one of the companies that licenses ratings and reviews of the organization. Common Sense Media told me that this did not affect his privacy ratings.)

Not all collection or use of our data is necessarily harmful. Streaming companies use people’s information to help us reset a forgotten password and make sure we can watch Hulu when we go from smartphone to TV.

The problem highlighted by Common Sense Media is that Americans, with some exceptions, simply cannot know what companies do with all the information they collect about us. Most of the time, we have to rely on legal documents that offer an illusion of control and think about the hypothetical risks of What could go wrong with our personal information in nature.

This condition contributed to the mistrust technology companies and concerns about what happens to our personal data, but Steyer said there’s a silver lining to our collective anxiety: Businesses and politicians know more and more Americans care about the privacy of information.

“I am incredibly happy to see the fundamental shift in public perception and awareness, and this is what will drive both policy change and industry change,” Steyer said. “The tide is turning. “

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  • The stigma of Theranos: My colleague Erin Griffith writes that some female start-up founders – especially those in life sciences, biotechnology, and healthcare – must fight comparisons with Elizabeth Holmes, whose blood testing start-up Theranos closed in 2018 after an investigation by a journalist questioned his claims about the company. Holmes will soon be on trial on allegations of criminal fraud.

  • Productive and respectful conversations! On Facebook! The Washington Post talks about a Facebook group called Vaccine Talk which has 70,000 members and a forum for civil and evidence-based discussions about vaccines. The group has 25 moderators and administrators to monitor publications and strict rules against offering medical advice or making scientific claims without evidence.

  • It’s hard to be green in consumer electronics: In two articles, Protocol examines why it is difficult for manufacturers of smartphones, televisions and other electronics to manufacture their products in a more environmentally friendly way. This may require drastic changes in manufacturing and in buyers’ expectations to get businesses and individuals to adopt more expensive and more durable gadgets.

Check it out lama walking on a beach in the bay area. The dogs seem confused about their new, unknown friend named Chubby.


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