Lawmakers investigate how AI in Apple, Google invade privacy

The government is finally understanding the invasion of privacy concerns around companies like Facebook, Apple and Google with their services and devices like iPhone and Android. Will these companies fix the real problem or be forced by the government like the medical community must do today with HIPAA?

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We all carry smartphones. It’s become one of the most important things we grab along with our keys and wallet when we walk out of our home in the morning. However, companies are going under the microscope with how they intrude on our privacy with these devices. It started with Facebook and Marc Zuckerberg in front of Congress. Now it’s Apple and Google. What’s next?

After the recent eye opening and jaw dropping testimony from Marc Zuckerberg and Facebook lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are finally getting more interested in how companies take, use and abuse our privacy in order to grow.

Now this investigation is spreading to smartphone makers Apple and Google with their iPhone, Android smartphones and Gmail. Who’s next? AI like what we use in Amazon Alexa and Google Home are one of the hottest new technologies and areas of growth. They are always listening to every word we say.

This is both on the devices that sit on our kitchen counter and the smartphone we carry with us. Want proof. Do you use an iPhone? If so, with it sitting on the table next to you, and without you touching it, simply say, “Hey Siri”, and watch what happens next. If your iPhone woke up and said, “Go ahead”, then you can catch a little glimpse into what the fear about these devices are.

Personal privacy on smartphones and AI devices: gone!

In addition, foreign governments are also fining Facebook hundreds of millions of dollars for in essence, abusing the personal privacy rights of their citizens. Are Apple and Google next? What about Amazon, Microsoft and every other AI device? I would say they, and others face the same scrutiny with their wireless and online services. Foreign governments seem to have a much stricter privacy protection policy compared to the USA.

So, where are all these investigations going? What will happen next? Let’s take a closer look.

These are earthshaking times for big and rapidly growing tech companies that use our personal and private information in order to grow. The ground is shaking under their feet. This is a real and growing problem that companies have ignored and profited from since they started. A real ang growing problem that we are just starting to talk about and discover.

Problem one stems from the fact that these companies have built their business model on using personal and private user information to make their fortunes. Problem two is they are not open and honest with their users about using their personal and private information. Problem three is they offer no alternatives. No solution to the user who wants to protect their privacy. Want me to continue?

Breach of privacy issue was created by companies without regard to the user

It’s important to recognize, this growing problem was created by these companies themselves. They take and use and abuse our personal and private information for the purpose of growing the company.

Some users don’t care. Others do. Many companies say they do tell the user. However, that explanation is in cryptic language buried deep inside the long user agreement or “Terms of Service” agreement, which no one reads because it is buried in a document that is too long and too confusing.

So, we do have the ability to say no, if we knew we had that right. However, no one would have ever assumed their personal and private information would be abused like it is.

And even if we did say no, too many of us would continue to use the service anyway because they don’t want to be left out. This whole process is wrong. It’s like blackmail to users who want to protect their personal and private information and stay in touch with friends and family.

Are Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft a growing monopoly?

This means many of these companies are in essence, a monopoly of sorts. That means there must be a higher level of commitment from the company to protect their users. Instead, these companies seem to be taking an attitude that shows they don’t care when they abuse our privacy.

Silicon Valley says they don’t understand the problem. They say they do make this information available in the user agreements. What they miss is this user agreement is too long, too complex, and these important items can easily be missed, even if the user agrees to them.

If companies really wanted to protect users, they would make sure these items were up front on page one in bold letters. A place where the customer could have a chance to find and read it.

Plenty of privacy invasion issues with Gmail, Amazon Alexa, Google Home and more

There are plenty of other problems as well. Gmail, which users love is also a privacy violator. Google or Alphabet scan Gmail email messages and sell advertising to companies that want to reach you.

Amazon Alexa and Google Home sit on our countertop at home just listening to every word we say. They listen for the key word to activate, but that means they are always listening. We have all read the media and news stories about the severe privacy invasion these kinds of devices create for many users. The companies deny this is an issue. However, this is a problem that has happened and continues to happen.

Apparently, these Silicon Valley companies though they could fool users forever. They were wrong. Many of us have been screaming about this violation for years. Typically, I don’t like when the government has to take a heavy hand. I would rather the companies and the industry police itself.

However, since users are being abused, it’s good that Governments are finally getting involved. What do you think the chances are the companies will come up with a solution themselves or whether the government will have to step in with their domineering rules and regulations?

If Facebook, Apple and Google don’t fix this, the government will

Silicon Valley doesn’t seem to realize the US Government and in fact other worldwide governments will eventually step in and make life much more difficult for them if they don’t clean up their act.

As an example, think about the medical industry. When we visit our doctor or go to the hospital, we must fill out HIPAA forms describing the protections for our privacy. HIPAA is a government mandated policy.

So, if Silicon Valley does not fix this privacy problem on their own, they will be forced to on those terms. Is that what they really want? Of course not. So, why have they gone down this path to start with? And why are they not working overtime to develop a solution to this growing problem?

One way or another, the problem will be fixed. The only question is will it be fixed by the companies or will Governments have to step in with their heavy-handed ways? The choice is up to the companies. I hope they make the right choice and quickly.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

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