Larry Ellison, an American business magnate and investor, is the man behind the rise of Oracle, one of the most successful computer technology corporations in the world. However, despite the company’s success, it now finds itself under fire for tracking five billion people.
The company is facing a class-action lawsuit due to the allegations, which accuses it of enough consumer privacy violations to fill a nearly 70-page complaint. The suit, filed in the Northern District of California, goes on to say that Oracle’s “worldwide surveillance machine” has compiled dossiers on five billion people.
Allegedly, the company and its subsidiaries engage in the day-to-day practice of deliberately surveilling the general public using their digital and online existence. It is a major violation of privacy that affects a majority of the people on Earth, and all of the data collected is sold to an excessive degree.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) commented that Oracle claimed to generate over $40 billion in annual revenue from the practice of selling the data. As for what information is being sold, the ICCL said, “Oracle’s dossiers about people include names, home addresses, emails, purchases online and in the real world, physical movements in the real world, income, interests and political views, and a detailed account of online activity.”
However, what is truly surprising about all of this is that Larry Ellison already revealed much of Oracle’s data harvesting practices in 2016.
According to Larry Ellison, “It is a combination of real-time looking at all of their social activity, real-time looking at where they are including, micro-locations – and this is scaring the lawyers [who] are shaking their heads and putting their hands over their eyes – knowing how much time you spend in a specific aisle of a specific store and what is in that aisle of a store.”
Ellison went on to say that the information collected is combined with their demographic profile and past purchasing behavior. It can then be used to predict what people are going to buy next.
It begs the question of what he isn’t saying since he is already willing to disclose so much. And that is a particularly important question, especially today, when people are more concerned about data privacy than ever before.
It couldn’t come at a worse time for Ellison and Oracle, either. The company is currently reviewing TikTok’s algorithms to make sure there are no data privacy concerns with the massive app. The domestic oversight led by Oracle comes after it was revealed that TikTok was sending American data to China.
But by Larry Ellison’s own admission, Oracle collects data in real-time. They have also been accused of collecting the data from unwilling users and using proxies to circumvent privacy controls.
So, even if Ellison and Oracle are trustworthy enough to vet and validate TikTok’s algorithms, what about their own data privacy violations? Perhaps more importantly, will their actions have any consequences?
There is no comprehensive federal privacy law in the US, which makes the case tricky. That is why the complaint references many laws, such as violations of the Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Constitution of the State of California, and the California Invasion of Privacy Act.
Whether the combination of alleged violations will have an effect is yet to be seen. But as the legal battle continues, it is worth paying attention to what else reveals itself. Because while that could be the extent of things, Larry Ellison’s revelation eight years prior might just be the tip of the iceberg.