Big Data is an economic juggernaut as well as a ripe opportunity to forfeit your profitable data privacy. Businesses and consumers should consider the potential costs – and what they hope to get in return.
Not so long ago, the internet was a very different place. Users were advised never to give out their names or addresses, to avoid talking to people they don’t know and to keep all personal identifiers secret. Data privacy was something we were thinking about constantly, especially when it came to sensitive information. Cyberspace was thought first and foremost to be a place filled with strangers where we must tread with caution.
Today, we’ve swung too far in the other direction. We all but depend upon the internet to connect, to make ourselves public, to be seen by as many people as possible all over the world. Entire sites exist to promote us, and the sort of things we used to carefully consider before disclosing, we now sign away without a second thought, completely unaware of what we are putting on display.
Distracted from Data Privacy
In fact, a recent study conducted by a professor I respect highly (Allesandro Acquisti at Carnegie Mellon University – read the NY Times article) shows how incredibly easy it is to convince consumers to give up private data that, were we thinking clearly, we’d staunchly refuse. What exactly does it take? Distraction. If we are distracted in the moment of making the decision to share our sensitive data (whether it’s a text, email or a special offer by the website requesting our info), we are far more likely to give more information than if we were not distracted. What is our online experience if not distracted!? In addition, the way in which online retailers ask for our information influences our willingness to give more than we should.
When was the last time you actually read through all of the “Terms and Agreements” that popped up when you joined Facebook or Twitter? This has happened slowly, and it’s been so gradual a change that most of us don’t even question it. Worse, many of the giants of social media have become so dominant that we often can’t afford to not be connected, as both professionals and individuals: many have become resigned to think of sharing their private information as a poison apple they have to bite.
A report by the World Economic Forum recently highlighted the current use of personal data and proposed possible solutions to combat data abuse, such as penalizing applications that overstepped their bounds. The authors behind the paper posed that data could still be collected as long as there were proper checks in place preventing it from being exploited. It’s a topic of much debate right now, as companies and advocates battle to see the best way to ensure user security while pleasing marketers. Meanwhile, there are hackers, botnets and cyber-criminals waiting in the wings to exploit security gaps for their own purposes.
On the other hand, we can’t deny the benefits that come from sharing personal information either. Millions have used the ability to connect and share to gain fame and financial success. There are also some sectors, particularly healthcare, where transmitting personal details electronically could greatly improve or even save lives, all of which makes the role of proper data privacy protection even more essential.
It’s a time where we can’t afford to be lax or ignorant when it comes to the vagaries of the internet. Proper data privacy training can be the difference between an organization that’s safely protected from outside threats and a sitting duck.
John Sileo is a data privacy expert and keynote speaker on social media exposure, cyber security and identity theft. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Visa and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.