July 8, 2014

Technology Trends: Corporate Transparency and Digital Rights

When dealing with exceedingly long Terms of Service agreements filled with complicated jargon, what are you really signing away? As a consumer, it can be a challenge to remain informed of your rights. This week’s articles explore how major corporations have used questionable transparency practices with their customers, as well as several measures that have been taken to try to protect consumers from such practices.

Facebook Added “Research” to User Agreement 4 Months After Emotion Manipulation StudyForbes

A recently published study revealed that, in January 2012, Facebook conducted psychological research on its users by manipulating the types of content streamed in users’ newsfeeds.  However, no language to address this research was included in Facebook’s Terms of Service until four months after the study took place, raising concern over transparency and user consent.

The FTC is Accusing T-Mobile of Jacking Up Customers’ Phone BillsThe Washington Post

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has accused T-Mobile of charging its customers with bogus third-party services for which they never subscribed. For example, the FTC cites that fees for miscellaneous services, such as horoscope information or celebrity gossip, were rolled into other line items in monthly bills, though customers were unaware. The inclusion of false charges like these, known as “cramming,” is practiced by multiple services and may affect up to 20 million people annually. The FTC has instructed T-Mobile to repay its customers for the fraudulent charges.

Canadian Antispam Law Whips Up a Storm of Last-Minute MessagesThe New York Times

The recent Canadian Antispam Law, aimed at protecting citizens from unwanted emails and texts, has potentially created the opposite effect. In the weeks leading up to the law’s effective date, companies with Canadian customers flooded inboxes seeking permission to continue communications about deals, coupons, or any other commercial offering. This attempt to stem spam messages to consumers has cluttered their inboxes even more and made it a challenge for some legitimate communications to get through.

Trade Group Brings Online Ad Privacy Tool to MobileAd Age

As part of the ongoing effort to strengthen consumers’ mobile data privacy, the Digital Advertising Alliance, a self-regulatory group in the ad industry, has created a mobile ad privacy app. The app, called “AppChoices,” allows users to opt-out from receiving mobile ads that are targeted to them based on the apps with which they interact. Similar opt-out programs are already available online to protect consumers from targeted ads. AppChoices will be available to consumers this fall.