I found a quarter, it is mine!

A commentary on “Navigating a World of Digital Disruption”

The article provides a road-map for thinking about digital disruption and the infrastructure that companies must put in place in order to foster innovation. As much as we celebrate the digital curation of genomic databases, two contentious questions remain unanswered: Are companies bound to deliver on original promises? and how is the database put to use?

Often times when you want to use the service of a company, you are forced to check the Terms and Conditions box and then proceed to creating an account, in which all your activities will be tracked and recorded. Take Apple products for example, with the motto of “everything you love, everywhere you go”, iCloud legitimately records all you data. Under the big umbrella of “Customization” the user is forced to participate and is often times not given a choice. Once the company has the customer’s consent to collect their data records, it becomes a company’s property to sell, just like the popular saying, “I found a penny, it is now mine”, except that in this case, the owner of the penny once told you it is okay to go through my wallet.

With regards to how databases are put to use, the writers suggest that information architecture will create an “infrastructure of trusted, secure, neutral data repositories”. Governments are claiming that “ultra broadband will be fundamental to creating jobs and competing in the new economy”.

That is not entirely true, let me tell you why through an example. In 2009, during the Iranian Presidential Election Protests, Nokia and Siemens sold mobile phone surveillance of the protesters to the government. As the direct result of that, many protesters were captured, imprisoned and interrogated. In the justification of the event, Ben Roome, a spokesman for the joint venture said: “If you sell networks, you also, intrinsically, sell the capability to intercept any communication that runs over them.” This clearly is a case of data misuse.

An even more extreme case of data misuse and misemployment was revealed by a former CIA employee, Edward Snowden, in 2013. He leaked information on US government extensive surveillance of phones and internet records of it’s residents, UK spy agency tapping fiber-optic cables, US hacking China networks, EU offices being bugged, etc. To this day, the full extent of the data leaked by Snowden is unknown to the public.

And so, are companies bound to deliver on original promises? utility vs privacy is one of the challenges of the curation of genomic databases. Companies need to gain the trust of their customers in order to be able to collect their data. Timothy Morey,Theodore Forbath and Allison Schoop in the article of “Designing for Transparency and Trust” state that: “A firm that is considered untrustworthy will find it difficult or impossible to collect certain types of data, regardless of the value offered in exchange.” Companies usually claim that your personal data will be used to create a better customer experience, presenting it as a win-win situation for both the company and customer.

However, sharing a database increases the vulnerability of the system to hackers and to abuse; and hence a potential threat to the privacy of customers is unavoidable. In 2014, Apple, the world’s most successful company in history, failed to protect the privacy of it’s users and dozen of celebrity nudes were leaked from iCloud. This goes to show the extent to which user data is vulnerable and constantly under threat of attack.

What’s worse is that the companies failing to deliver the original promise of protecting customer data and putting it in good use is really of no consequence. In some cases they get away with a public apology and many times they do not even offer that. Perhaps, if a consequence was foreseen for the culpable companies, not only the customers would feels safer, but also the companies would hold accountable for the protection of the data.

The article starts by introducing the Three Waves of Digital Disruption and signifies their profound implications as “a portfolio of new strategic moves that business leaders need to master”, so this commentary would be incomplete without briefly discussing these waves.

In the light of increasing digitization of our world, some disruptors did not wait for the trend to emerge, they surfed on the forefront of the Three Waves of Digital Disruption, they set their own trend rather than following the existing ones. As companies moved from riding one wave to another, the forth Wave of Innovation was unleashed.

In April 2015, four month after “Navigating a World of Digital Disruption” was written, Vijayanta Gupta, the head of product and industry marketing strategy of Adobe Systems Europe introduced the fourth wave: Software Is Eating The World. He stated: “Software is either currently transforming or has already transformed industries that assumed they were immune to software-based disruption.” The exemplar of this is Facebook. Emergence of the world’s most popular social media platform with 1.49 billion monthly active users, is killing text messaging, has taken over the news industry, and is remaking the entertainment industry, while not creating any content of it’s own.