Commentary

Fines For Location Data Offenders: A Drop In The Bucket?

In a recent conversation I had with a data scientist, he said, “When it comes to data collection, I have no morals.” Though he quickly mitigated that statement, saying, “The data I care about is actionable data, and I would never use personally identifiable information in a public setting.” But he said he has no qualms about collecting and testing any data to see if it was valuable to his business’ KPIs.

The average person has little regard for the privacy of their data, though they may pay lip service to the idea. By using a mobile phone or accessing the Internet through any browser (except maybe Tor), by clicking yes on any number of privacy policies without reading them in order to access the content that they want, users enter into contracts written and unwritten with little thought for what they give up in return.

Mobile ad company InMobi was recently fined nearly $1 million by the Federal Trade Commission for violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. As part of the settlement, the company will have to establish a privacy program that will be independently audited every two years for the next 20 years.

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Everyone collects the data that InMobi used, though the more "moral" of them scrub it out as soon as they can. However, it’s beyond a doubt that every company that collects mobile data has asked whether or not they should use the data to gain a competitive advantage. Most probably skirt the boundaries of what’s actually legal on a daily basis.

$1 million is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not enough to cause anyone to step away from the line when their competitors are right there with them.

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