We are moving forward to the era of global connectedness, when all the objects used in our daily life have access to the Internet. Your fridge will send you a reminder about what products you need to buy to cook your favourite cake; you can start the washing machine just clicking the button on your smartphone and lock the door or unlock your door using a special application. Everything is becoming easier to control, to control on distance. So, does it mean the same for our personal information? Can we say that we have 100% control of our private data?
The more connected we become, the more information about us, our behaviour and habits we “send” online. Let’s just see what issues might occur if we are constantly connected.
We got used to getting all the information online with one click, everything, we want, can be found. But do we ever ask ourselves a question ‘who possesses all this data’? Or it is public?
When we speak about general facts, we have no doubts that everyone has right to access them, but what if the same becomes normal for all information. We want to be able to know about everything, but there is the reverse side of the coin, when it comes to our private facts. Just try to type in your name and see what Google knows about you. Are you still thinking that you are controlling the use of information about yourself?
Before we start using free online services, we do not ask ourselves if they are really free. In fact, the price that we are paying might be higher than we think. Instead of being consumers, we become products: companies rigorously analyse any available data on us they can get. What is more surprising, we provide them with that, sometimes without realizing it.
Companies, using our data on a regular basis, do not realize the risks that might occur in the long-term. They are unpunished and continue using their position, but once the consumers understand the scope to which their private data becomes public, they turn away from these companies and switch to more trustworthy competitors.
What might not have any implications now, might be a destructive factor for the business in the future. Thus, it is better to start increasing awareness among your consumers straight away. Companies should say openly what they are doing and be ready to face the reaction of their clients.
According to Boston Consulting Group, businesses involved in using and selling data on customers’ behaviour in Europe will operate the activities, which are worth $1trn by 2020. Imagine how much profit they make on our information.
But if we are the owners of the information, isn’t it us who should get profit from such activities?
Paul Davis, the CEO of Handshake, thinks so. His company, among many others in this sector (Meeco, Datacoup) connects users and companies who want to buy their personal data so that they can negotiate the price. The deal takes place only if both parties agree. This is a win-win agreement, because as a result, the consumer 1) controls what is shared and 2) gets money for his “product”, while the company 1) gets reliable data and 2) builds tighter relationships with a consumer.
The research initiated by market research company GfK showed that consumers are ready to supply more information to companies, it they get fair ‘value exchange’; for example, 28% strongly agreed that they can share more information if it helps them to save money.
On the other side, there are many applications and services helping us to protect personal information from being used by third parties. For example, MyPermissions gives us understanding of apps, which have access to our data, while Ghostery helps us to tracks and block companies using our browsing habits. A device Safeplug will provide you with anonymous network once plugged into your router.
We can continue discussion about companies who use our private data secretly or help us to protect it, but, in the end, it is us who decide how much information we want to make available.
Just take all these discussions about privacy issues in the Internet as food for thoughts. Next time before clicking ‘OK’, take a moment and analyse if you really want everyone to know it.