COLORADO SPRINGS — There are serious privacy concerns about how much personal data people are unknowingly providing through smartphone apps and big tech platforms. News5 is learning more about how it's happening and why investigators across the country are looking into it.
The Colorado Attorney General's Office is teaming up with other attorneys general from states across the country to investigate big tech privacy concerns and business tactics. Those concerns also extend into how our data is being shared and used to manipulate us online.
When you use your smartphone apps, or log onto certain websites you are producing data points and information that can be used by the various platforms. Colorado consumer experts say big tech companies are able to leverage our data keeping users in the dark creating major privacy concerns.
"That's a lot of data and it's not just you, it's your friends, it's folks who are like you and it really allows them to predict what you're interested in, what will keep your attention," said Danny Katz, consumer watchdog for Colorado Public Interest Research Group. "Once your information gets out there it's out there and it's scary enough to think someone took it from some company, but it's actually even more worrisome for me to know that there's a company that's taking it from me and then giving it to somebody else and somebody else. That's just their business model and I didn't have any say in that."
So what can we do personally to better to protect our data and privacy?
The Federal Trade Commission offers these suggestions...
- Know what's on your phone by taking an inventory of all those smartphone apps.
- Consider deleting any of them you aren't using.
- Take the time to check privacy settings of the apps, devices, and accounts you use.
- Run updates to bolster security.
- Be very careful when using public wi-fi.
There's now a bi-partisan effort to improve business competition and the privacy for consumers when they go online. Looking into big tech business practices attorneys general in Colorado and Nebraska say without more competition online this will continue to be a problem.
"Part of the challenge is people say well Google's product is free, so what's the problem? Well, if it is a lower quality product because they don't face competition and consumers don't have any place to go to get the privacy protection they may want, that's bad for consumers," said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.
"Upstart companies are just overwhelmed by the fact they can't enter into this market because of the data monopoly control and investors are going to look at this and say seriously, you want to go compete against Google? I think I'll keep my money because you'll get squelched," said Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson.
The attorney general in Colorado, in Nebraska, and in several other states are working together on this issue taking a close look to see if big tech companies are violating anti-trust laws that were established to protect consumers and ensure competition.
Facebook is one of the Big Tech organizations that has responded by saying it will fight any lawsuit. Adding that it’s in one of the most competitive industries and is being punished for creating successful products.
News5 will continue to follow up on this story as it develops.
If you've been impacted by data privacy concerns and would like to alert the Colorado Attorney General you can do so at stopfraudcolorado.gov