Above the fold is Aspectus’ regular feature shining a spotlight on the major stories in the technology, digital, energy and financial services sector.

By: Kelley Wake

The story
There have been a number of events this year that have underscored the importance of accountability and transparency.

For example, Facebook’s link to Cambridge Analytica in 2016. Cambridge Analytica mined data from over 50 million Facebook users and used it to sway votes in the controversial American election. Facebook had been warned repeatedly that its security systems could be easily breached. Upon being caught out, Facebook argued that they are merely a platform that hosts content and not a publisher who decides what content is available on the platform thereby dodging all responsibility and accountability by placing the blame on Facebook users and advertisers.

Another example is Uber – it made headlines this year when legislators discovered the tech firm failed to report a data breach of more than 3.5 million users in 2016. It has been fined £385k in the UK and more than £116 million in the US for failing to notify drivers and users that their data had been implicated in the hack.

Uber and Facebook have displayed a complete lack of transparency and accountability and has raised questions about whether we can trust organisations with our data.

Data breaches are becoming more and more commonplace and are having far-reaching impact across the globe, financially, politically, and social as well as many more and which experts are unable to predict. And of what we can see, they seem to be snowballing out of control.

Why it’s important
Every day there are more than 3 million data files stolen through cyber hacks and a data hack every 37 seconds. With 6.5 connected devices per person today, growing to billions globally by 2020, there is a growing need for tech giants and data authorities to strengthen security measures, take responsibility and be transparent about breaches. The introduction and enforcement of GDPR, in Europe. 

What the expert had to say
Senator Mark Warner stated that Facebook’s privacy violations, “is yet another data point demonstrating that Facebook offers users far too little in the way of transparency about how their data is being used, and by whom.”

Senator Ron Wyden echoed this when he argued that when companies repeatedly lie to Congress and citizens about what they do with messages, locations, likes and everything else, Congress has a duty to do something about it.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Facebook violated the consent decree. I think the question is, you know, how many violations there are,” said David Vladeck, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection from 2009 to 2012. “I think there may be fresh violations.”

Are there other ways besides regulations to curb these transgressions? Earlier this year, Procter & Gamble announced it cut its digital advertising budget by $200 million after putting pressure on social media companies to be more transparent when it came to the reach of the ads they were selling.

Whatever the solution we know we need one soon and without transparency, responsibility and accountability it will be almost impossible for this to happen.

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