A few years ago, we witnessed the ugly and scandalous side of Facebook with the Cambridge Analytica data scandal which made news worldwide for having influenced election results using the data gathered from the users of Facebook. How did they manage to do that? Through personality tests requesting users to allow access to their profile information, messages, and more. Seemingly harmless, right? Who would’ve thought of the possibility of something like this going on in the background?
Since the scandal came to light, it has prompted a number of users to delete or deactivate their Facebook accounts for fear of their personal data being used without their knowledge. For instance, this included individuals like Elon Musk and Brian Acton, using the hashtag #deletefacebook.
Digital marketing is an area that has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, there is an abundance of data available at any given point in time. A person, sitting in his room with just a laptop and a considerable amount of money, has easy access to a treasure trove of information about the populace on the other side of the world. Subsequently, this puts huge amounts of data at risk if even one individual with criminal intentions gets his hands on all of this data.
To better understand the nuances of this issue, I spoke to Rick Vattimo, vice president for digital consulting in CEI America. He says “with the exponential growth of digital interactions on social and commerce fronts and the resulting explosion of data, this issue will get more complex and it will get worse before it gets better.”
The Truth About Consent
It has been found that there are 2.5 exabytes of data being produced in the world, every day. That’s 2.5 billion gigabytes! With this much data comes responsibility. A responsibility that tech moguls today seem to be, quite frankly, reckless about. On the other hand, though, honest and open data tracking has helped businesses enhance their services and products. High precision audience targeting using geolocation data has resulted in improved customer satisfaction and loyalty towards a brand.
Today, people are comfortable giving away a little bit of their data in exchange for more satisfying customer experiences. That is to say, consumers have become more tech-savvy and reap benefits from such targeted advertising and marketing. The demographic is opening up more to the plethora of possibilities offered by digital marketing and technology.
Brands like Amazon have had huge success in driving sales through targeted marketing. With conscientious, transparent data tracking, it is possible to make use of data beneficial for both brands and their customers.
Explaining his premise further, Vattimo says there are three major challenges when it comes to data explosion:
1. Dealing with the sheer volume of data available at hand in the world of interconnected things
2. How to manage and leverage key pieces of data to the advantage of businesses
3. How to keep data secure and ensure ethical use of personal and private data, with the consent of the owners
Each of the challenges above would come with its own set of sub-challenges and issues. However, as taxing a task as it may be, it is one of importance that would prove beneficial in the long run. It is necessary to scrutinize every single aspect of each challenge. This way, one can ensure that there aren’t loopholes that can be taken advantage of, at any point in the future.
Vattimo is of the opinion that the safest way to deal with the issue is through well-thought-out legislation. Laying down rules to abide by would be a first step towards regulating the handling of the massive amount of data at hand. As technology and solutions evolve, we will be able to devise more convenient methods of handling data.
In the wake of the Facebook scandal, Apple pushed an update to its devices which notifies the user with a “privacy icon” when an app seeks personal information. This is also in line with the upcoming GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation,) which is designed to harmonize data privacy across Europe. Likewise, we can expect that other nations would follow suit upon successful implementation of the GDPR.
Apple’s Privacy Icon
However, we can’t ignore the ease with which an individual can access data of any kind. It’s becoming easier for individuals and businesses to obtain information about people from across the world with internet connectivity. There is the chance that in the future, data might become a kind of currency. This can empower its owners and place power back into their hands, where it belongs.
To put it in simple terms, we use money as the medium to get what we want. Vattimo says that there is a possibility of the same becoming the case with data. It isn’t difficult to think of a scenario where one bargains with a piece of data to get something else in return, right?
As is clear from Apple CEO Tim Cook’s comment that “some well-crafted regulation is necessary,” it is safe to assume that other tech giants such as Google and Microsoft will soon take this up. That is, if they intend to keep their consumer base intact, lest should there ever be a #quitGoogle. As for data becoming a currency, that is for us to wait and find out.