Which Major AI Companies Care Most About Your Privacy: Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook?

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Exploring Privacy In The Age Of AI: Privacy Mistakes and Improvements

No company is perfect, but some companies have experienced greater privacy failures than others. Facebook Portal provides limited information to Facebook’s server, but the company otherwise boasts a very poor track record. The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a settlement with Facebook that amounts to $5 billion USD. Facebook admitted that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, had improperly accessed data of 87 million Facebook users. It is believed that this data was used to help influence the 2016 American presidential election.

Facebook is also currently under a criminal investigation for sharing users’ data with over 150 companies. These deals helped Facebook to gain even more users, and the case is still under investigation.

Amazon, Apple, and Google have not been hit with as many fines, but they are not free from controversy. Google was fined $57 million USD for not following the European Union Data’s privacy law. The EU argued that Google did not provide enough information to users about how their data was collected and used. Google has since made several changes to their policies to make them more transparent.

apple homepod

Amazon and Apple are both currently embroiled in privacy lawsuits. One Amazon lawsuit claims that Alexa recorded the audio of millions of children without the consent of their parents. An Apple lawsuit argues that Apple granted developers access to users’ iTunes libraries without their permission. Both cases have yet to be resolved.

It was recently revealed that Apple, Amazon, and Google were sending audio recordings from their virtual assistants to outside contractors for “grading”. This practice had not been mentioned in their privacy policies. While Apple has completely suspended grading, Amazon and Google users will need to opt out of this feature.

The Case For Empowering AI With Your Data

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google all share very similar privacy policies and definitions of information. The way they share this information slightly varies and depends on the resources that the company is able to access.

All four companies share data from their virtual assistants and smart displays/speakers through different means. Both the Apple HomePod and Facebook Portal try to keep most data local to the device, while Amazon and Google tend to rely more on the cloud. However, Amazon and Facebook’s other privacy policies and practices are rather alarming. It is unclear whether they will continue to maintain different privacy practices between their various services. Google and Apple’s privacy practices are far more consistent.

Each of these companies’ privacy practices have come under fire over the last year, but Apple and Google have made the largest strides toward improving their policies and features. Apple completely eliminated audio grading and have made more efforts toward keeping data on the device. Google has added new privacy controls to Android 10 and turned off other services to improve privacy. While all four companies are quite similar, we believe that Google and Apple offer the most consistent privacy policies and controls, and overall, take privacy violations more seriously.

As companies begin to improve and increase the uses of AI, they will need to implement stricter privacy policies. Artificial intelligence has the power to do great good and great harm. Privacy will need to become a greater priority and users and institutions will need to hold all of these companies accountable. 

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