Trust in Transparency

by: Samantha Klein


I did my dad a favor and downloaded the latest weather app to his iPhone as he looked over my shoulder. I couldn’t believe his reaction when he saw me click “OK” to the following prompt: “Weather Would Like to Use Your Current Location.” It was as though I had just committed the most offensive crime known to man by exposing his whereabouts and intruding upon his privacy.

My dad immediately had me google how to disable the invasive location request, and I couldn’t help but think of Marie Wallace’s TED@IBM talk, “Privacy by Design: Humanizing Analytics.” She spoke about the evolution of privacy and the huge potential for organizations to transform how they engage with individuals. Wallace went on to state that privacy should not be considered an impediment to innovation, but an opportunity to innovate. One of the key things she noted in her talk was that relationships can only be built on trust and mutual respect.

After witnessing my dad’s reaction, or over-reaction, it was clear to me that we have a long way to go towards creating such mutually beneficial relationships, especially when it comes to the boomer generation.
Boomers grew up with the conviction that trust is earned over time. While there’s nothing wrong with that belief qualitatively, millennials find it more expedient and engaging for trust to be given outright and maintained until broken. This polar difference in outlook, especially when it comes to the internet, helps explain why boomers are far less likely to share data with marketers and/or companies they may interact with.

Knowledge and relationships have always been immediately accessible to millennials and trust is the starting point, since otherwise information and people would be irrelevant. A system where trust in others is gained gradually over time may be superior, but it is more efficient for millennials to google and trust initially until proven wrong based upon experience. I’ll readily give permission for the weather app to access my location, but the instant the app provides me with irrelevant information I will delete it from my device.

As Marie Wallace stated in her talk, our society can choose to let the insights generated by Big Data be used as a force for good or evil. The problem we need to solve is transparency — if companies are open and honest with us about how they are analyzing our data they can use these insights to enrich, rather than exploit, our lives. Instead of “turning off the data tap” (like my dad was so quick to do), companies need to start taking a “Privacy by Design” approach where everyone benefits — millennials, boomers, gen X, gen Z, and all future generations to come.

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