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Facebook Refuses to Revise Tracking Practices: The Week in Data News

Arguing that their current procedures don’t violate the CCPA, Facebook released a controversial statement this week. Using an interesting loophole, the company is sticking to its guns and refusing to change their mode of operations. Read on for this week’s data privacy recap.

Facebook Maintains Web Tracking Practices

After the California Consumer Privacy Act went into effect this year, Facebook released a somewhat concerning statement. They will reportedly not change their web tracking practices, claiming that they are exempt because they don’t sell user data directly. Facebook’s tracking system is called Pixel, and they consider it a business-to-business ad service. Businesses willingly use Pixel to deliver targeted ads to web users through Facebook, with Facebook essentially acting as the middleman in the exchange. Because of this distinction, the company doesn’t see what they do as directly selling user information. Some experts say this attempt is futile, however, claiming that transferring data at all would force Facebook into compliance regardless of their direct involvement in the sales. The decision is essentially still pending review by the Attorney General for the time being, but could cause major shockwaves if vindicated by the high court.

Microsoft Updates Office 365 Terms

While one large tech company refuses change, another power player is opting for the opposite route. Microsoft announced plans this past November to update their contracts to ensure compliance. And now those changes are finally live, meaning that users can peruse the updated Microsoft Volume Licensing Product Terms and the Microsoft Online Services Terms (OST) documents online. Both of these documents are large, so the tech company also released an Online Services Data Protection Addendum (DPA), which summarizes the data-protection terms, standard contractual clauses, and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance details as a separate, concise document. The move towards increased transparency is certainly commendable, and shows how Microsoft intends to play the game. The policies also specifically highlight that no user data will be used for profit.

Ring Admits to Terminating Employees for Abusing Data Access

In a letter to five senators this week, Brian Huseman, a VP of public policy at Amazon, admitted that Ring employees have been fired over the past few years for abusing access to video data. In each specific instance, the employee in question was authorized to view data but attempted to access it in a way that “exceeded what was necessary for their job functions,” Huseman said. All of these employees have since been fired. In a somewhat suspicious development, a spokeswoman for the company declined to say which kind of video data these employees accessed. In his statement, Huseman affirmed that Ring has severely limited access to video data in the wake of these incidents. Now only three company employees have access, and live feeds can only be accessed after obtaining direct consent from the user.

YouTube Rolls Out Child Protection Protocols

Following the turmoil of last year’s multi-million dollar fine, Youtube has officially released new protections for children’s content on the site. In line with the passage of new data privacy legislation, the protections severely limit data collection and targeted advertising for this specific demographic. Inherent to this goal will be an increased focus on distinguishing the content that’s primarily intended for children, both on the part of the creators themselves and the in-house moderators. Any content that is designated for children cannot feature targeted advertising. They will also put measures in place to moderate comments on children’s videos and live feeds. Some critics argue that YouTube will not be able to adequately moderate content. On the other hand, creators are upset at what they see as a blow to their livelihoods. Regardless, regulators are keeping a close eye on the development with the safety of the children involved being priority number one.

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