Can social media ever respect data privacy rights?

  • by Arlo Gilbert
  • · posted on November 3, 2022
  • · 4 min read
Can social media ever respect data privacy rights?

Happy November, everybody!

Unless you’ve achieved a zen-like ability to ignore the headlines, you’re probably aware of Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter.

Normally, we like to focus this newsletter on a variety of important data privacy stories and not endlessly report on the foibles of big tech giants, but this news story merits the attention. It’s not every day that a social media company with hundreds of millions of users gets acquired by a new entity after all. When that happens, our first question is how that new entity treats data privacy.

We feature one article in our newsletter this week that raises privacy concerns over the acquisition, but it’s by no means the only article about Twitter’s existing data privacy issues and the potential for additional issues now that Musk is at the helm. For example: would Musk combine customer data from one of his many other enterprises with Twitter user data to create more precise ad targeting on Twitter? Will Twitter get around to encrypting its DMs from end to end, so internal employees can no longer access their content? Will Twitter update its data retention policy to delete deactivated user data?

Musk has already indicated that Twitter will comply with the EU’s new Digital Services Act (DSA), which enforces rules around illegal and harmful content and the use of personal information in targeted advertisements, among other requirements. Signaling the intention to comply with this new regulation would suggest that Musk also intends to comply with other existing regulations like the GDPR.

However, Musk’s public comments seem to contradict his plans to comply with the DSA. And we’ve seen plenty of evidence demonstrating how big tech companies struggle with data privacy compliance in general.

At the end of the day, the fundamental business model of social media platforms like Twitter is to show its users targeted advertisements. As long as that remains true, there will always be conflict between social media platforms and data privacy.

Best,
Arlo


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About The Author · Arlo Gilbert

Arlo Gilbert is the CEO & co-founder of Osano. An Austin, Texas native, he has been building software companies for more than 20 years in categories including telecom, payments, procurement, and compliance. In 2005 Arlo invented voice commerce, he has testified before congress on technology issues, and is a frequent speaker on data privacy rights.