Rethinking Modern Day Privacy

Helena Hlas

Jan 29, 2020
minute read

After roaming around for what seems like forever looking for a spot with free WiFi do you think twice before accepting the terms and conditions and sending off a dozen messages or booking a flight?

Our recent podcast guest Monique Morrow got us thinking about modern day variations of the concept of privacy so this week we want to dive into some of the numbers and notions behind privacy behaviour, considered in the following light:

Your Online Presence as an Asset

Blurred Virtual Lines

To listen to the full interview with Monique, click here.

Your Online Presence as an Asset

Have you ever talked to a group of friends about a product only to find it in your instagram adverts a few minutes later? Companies use your data every day to get to know more about you than you might even know about yourself. Digital data has created a new wave of opportunity for economic value creation, making your data and the extraction of it comparable to new world oil.

Data includes anything from demographic data from bank accounts and medical records, to employment data, web searches and of course our media habits, likes and dislikes. Even if you’re not on social media, your location services, purchases, and messages are all at risk. Even your fitness tracker is capitalizing on your secret sweaty service.

Consider these figures for a minute:

  • There are about 4.04 billion email users relying on email as the primary source of communication today
  • Each day approximately 95 million tweets are submitted on Twitter
  • At the end of 2018 it was estimated that there were 22 billion connected devices in use around the world, also known as IoT, internet of things (includes smartphones, kitchen appliances, anything with a web pulse really)
  • Forecast suggests 50–70 billion IoT devices ten years from now

At the end of the day, with this kind of spread, it’s important to be conscientious of the fact that no matter how secure your security practices are, no person and no business is impenetrable to bad actors.

According to a survey by Gemalto about consumer behaviour

  • 75% of consumers surveyed believe that companies do not take the protection and security of their data very seriously
  • 31% of consumers have been a victim of a data breach
  • 69% of consumers believe that companies are most responsible for protecting customer data
  • 64% of consumers say they are unlikely to do business with a company where their financial or sensitive data was stolen
  • 54% of consumers admit that they tend to use the same passwords across their online accounts

If you wish to understand these figures a little deeper, check out this comprehensive study analyzing consumer opinions and behaviours towards data privacy by Columbia Business School.

So it’s clear, as the movement towards digitalization continues to boom, so does the overwhelming concern for privacy. How do we best manage this domino effect? We could just throw our cellphones into a lake, build a log cabin and live off the grid like Into the Wild, but that could end spoiler alert, badly. Yes, definitely, there are bad actors and bad ethical practices but it isn’t all bad. After all, this scary new world vouches for good intentions built in the name of world -wide connections. Similar to how governments use census and your data to provide public services more efficiently, this new economy evolved from the goal to support individualized service-delivery business models and to give birth to the empowered individual.

Blurred Virtual Lines

Where do we draw the line, if possible at all? How do we support individualized and personalized products while still keeping a hold on our privacy?

The golden standard of ethics in regards to your data considers that you should be, at the very least, informed as to how your data is being used. When it comes to data you should be the middleman and agent of your personal assets.

Currently, we have solutions for regulation such as terms and conditions and the cookie compliance law, the pop up reminding us that every site we go on uses cookies and gathers our data and gives us the option to not agree to these terms. However, studies show it may not be so effective in actually presenting the option of choice as its institution would have us believe. It seems as though most people are either mindlessly agreeing to the use of cookies, terms and conditions and privacy settings without actually diving into the extent to which their privacy is being violated or don’t understand the terms and conditions being presented to them.

Businesses and products should cultivate trust with transparency and allow the presence of both personalized service and protection of privacy. The discussion brings up a few possible solutions to making the virtual laws a little more tangible:

Pay for Privacy

As companies continue to profit from our data some digital culture minds such as Jaron Lanier compel us to think about how to better use the internet such as prompting us to choose to pay for our services rather than use pages for free in exchange for privacy. He compares the internet to traditional media such as books, which are purchases, and why traditional long developed cultural notions can help remake the internet.

Fair Data Economy

Not-for-profit organizations such as the Swiss based Vetri Foundation are leading the way towards a more universally beneficial data economy, where you too can benefit from your own data.

Terms and jargon for the average public

At a very basic level, companies should strive for the most ethical presentation of their terms and ensure that the user is making conscientious decisions in accepting to use their page.

8 common mistakes companies make with Terms and Conditions

Download browser add ons such as Terms of Service Didn’t Read (tosdr).

If all else fails…

  • If you’re using free wifi and your connection is not secure, limit site use.
  • Take time to consider who you might be sharing your posts with before you do.
  • Change your passwords often and keep them complex.
  • Be a conscientious consumer of the world wide web.
  • If you don’t understand the privacy regulations of a page, take action and ask about your assets and how they’re being used.

Additional Sources:

Even more on Consumer Behaviour and Trust

World Economic Forum 2011 Report on the impact of data in the economy

More reading on the ethical side of your right to privacy and its fate.

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