While the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal has certainly created its share of problems for Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, it’s clear that the scale and scope of the scandal extends to every corner of Silicon Valley. After all, it’s not just the social network Facebook that has been collecting truly staggering amounts of data on every user – Google, Amazon and Netflix are among the most prominent tech giants that are now facing intense scrutiny regarding their sometimes convoluted and obfuscating privacy policies. It almost seems like a matter of time before legislators call for comprehensive new privacy regulations that will apply to all of these companies, not just Facebook.
Google and the fallout from Facebook Cambridge Analytica
If there is one company that potentially stands to lose the most as a result of fallout over the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s Google. Quite simply, Google offers such a wide array of services – not just Search and Gmail, but also YouTube, Chrome, AdWords and Google Maps – that it’s impossible to use the web these days without touching one of Google’s many offerings. Watch a single YouTube video, and Google can start to augment what it already knows about you from your search history to show you even more personalized ads all across the Internet.
It’s easy to see, in fact, how a similar type of Cambridge Analytica consumer privacy scandal might be lurking in the shadows at Google. One big concern, of course, has been the company’s use of Gmail as an important way to scrape personal information about your contacts and insights about what’s in your messages. Already, lawyers in California are threatening class action lawsuits that would seek to penalize Google for collecting information about non-Gmail users who inadvertently got swept up in the company’s massive data collection program.
And further business risk to Google exists via the company’s excessive reliance on advertising revenue. The problem, at least from Google’s perspective, is that many consumers are starting to use ad blockers within the browser to avoid advertisers trying to track them as they visit different sites around the Internet. There’s not a lot that Google can do about people who aren’t using its browser product, but there is a lot that Google can do when it comes to Chrome users. Thus, it’s perhaps no surprise that Google is trying to get out in front of the “ad blocker” movement by introducing changes to Chrome and by creating new rules for advertisers. Google’s intention is to rid the Internet of all the ads that are causing people to turn to ad blockers, but not getting rid of ads entirely (at least, not the ones that are Google-friendly).
New privacy regulations on the horizon
Ahead of the launch of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a privacy regulation set to go into effect at the end of May, Google has taken only a few, limited proactive steps. For example, on the official Google Blog, the company released a statement noting it would be updating its EU Consent Policy as soon as the European law goes into effect. At the same time, it would be devising a solution for “non-personalized ads” that advertisers can use instead of “personalized ads” to meet the terms of the new privacy regulations. But there was absolutely no mention of changes coming down the pike for U.S. users, only European users.
Amazon and the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal
Another company at risk from the Cambridge Analytica personal data scandal is Amazon. The company also collects an impressive array of data about each individual user – including name, address, credit card numbers, email address, addresses where you send packages, and a search history of all items on the Amazon.com website.