It’s Not Just Data

There is an interesting case that was argued before the Supreme Court the other day and it just might have an impact on your business.  There was also a lawsuit filed in an unrelated matter that could have the same effect.  A third item is a study that’s kind of scary. Let’s have a quick look at them and think about what they might mean to anyone who gathers information about their customers. 

First, the case before The Supremes.  It involves Spokeo, one of the large data aggregators.  Spokeo’s information about a consumer was almost 100% wrong.  As Justice Kagan said, “They basically got everything wrong about him. They got his marital status wrong. They got his income wrong. They got his education wrong. They basically portrayed a different person.”  The plaintiff was seeking a job when he filed suit, and worried that the errors in the report would affect his job search.  The other suit involves Ashley Madison.  They were sued for allegedly misleading users by inflating the number of women who belonged to the service.  As we have found out from the data hack, only a small percentage of the profiles belonged to actual women who used the site.  The company hired employees whose jobs were to create thousands of fake female profiles.

I suspect that a third form of data abuse will be in the courts shortly, as a recent study found that the average Android app sends potentially sensitive data to 3.1 third-party domains, and the average iOS app connects to 2.6 third-party domains.  None of the apps notify users that their information is being shared with third parties.  Data that’s wrong, data that’s fake, and data that’s shared without permission.  I suppose if we could get the fake guys to populate the wrong guys, sharing it without permission wouldn’t be a big deal.  Since it’s your personal information, it is.

If you gather data (and who doesn’t), you have a responsibility to keep it secure and not to use it for purposes beyond what the owner of the data (that would be you and me) reasonably expects you’ll be doing with it.  If you’re disseminating data, especially data that could impact someone’s life and not just your own business, you need to be sure it’s accurate.  And if you’re making stuff up, please just go away.

They’re not just data points, folks.  They’re people.  Maybe they’re lawsuits in waiting, or maybe they’re your spouse, kids, or parents.  Let’s be careful out there, ok?

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