Control Your Data Before It Controls You

In today’s society, information is power. It holds a great influence over us, yet we often go about our days blissfully unaware of the vulnerability of the standard infrastructure. In spite of the many prominent data hacks in recent history, such as the events involving Equifax and Cambridge Analytica, the controversy surrounding them has subsided in the public forum, and many people have moved on seemingly disregarding any possible threat to their own livelihood.

Such security being compromised is a more concerning threat than something as simple as personal information being used for targeted ads, although this does not change the concerning nature of how individual data is used to gain influence over a person. Personal identifying information (pii) is disseminated all the time, through purchase data and many other forms of private information sent out into the world and used by others to shape our experiences.

One proposed idea to combat this lack of control over our data is the creation of a data privacy bill of rights that gives pii other data ownership back into the rightful hands of consumers. Regulations like this would be a step in the right direction, although it is perhaps even more important to consider the distinction between owning pii and other such data as opposed to controlling how it is utilized.

This process does not simply end at owning and controlling our online data. As has been famously quoted many times in history, with great power comes great responsibility. In the modern age, it would be virtually impossible to attempt to keep all of our data private, considering it is an integral part of managing and enhancing our day-to-day lives; personal profiling of our shopping experiences, social media, banking/financial information becomes more and more essential to interacting with exponential advances of modern technology.

Finn Lützow-Holm Myrstad TED talk — How tech companies deceive you into giving up your data and privacy @finnmyrstad

The fight to protect data and provide oversight to infrastructure to the benefit of users has been “a losing game” — data is continually generated and monitored as we use the internet, make purchases, sign up for websites and so forth. When it comes to controlling our data, this proves a difficult challenge to overcome, as there is only so much that legislation can do to ease the pressures of the overwhelming demand of such data consumption which has become increasingly available for purchase by major conglomerates. As more data is created and assimilated, the responsibility for it also becomes greater, and the thought of controlling our data becomes less accessible and appealing to the general public.

The scale of the subject makes the notion of controlling it an amorphous and ethereal concept that can be difficult to comprehend. It is for this reason that individuals on a broad scale have aversions staying current to the advances in technology and learning how to control their data, despite the importance of doing so. To be fair, there isn’t much tangible value our data can offer to the consumer directly in its current state, despite its massive value to the adtech and commercial economy. Paradoxically it has enough value to be hacked, but not enough perceived and actualized value to the consumer themselves. Furthermore, people live busy lives and it’s hard to prioritize something that has a value that is so occulted and difficult to comprehend, instead feel adequately protected by regulations such as the GDPR.

A survey by Martech Today shows that a significant portion of consumers have expressed a desire for greater control over data, although the societal standards surrounding individual data control tells a different story. How many times have you skipped over a private policy agreement, or ignored terms and conditions? Most everyone has done it. Research by Deloitte confirms this, revealing that over 90 percent of consumers accept terms and conditions without reading them. It is practically second nature for people to willingly hand over their data and let others assume responsibility for it. We must work to change this mentality to encourage individuals to take charge of their own data by proper incentive, and that path may be finally giving data tangible value back to individuals.

The Wall Street Journal — GDPR: What Is It and How Might It Affect You?

As we begin to seek control and responsibility of our own data, there is a clear requirement for the creation of a holistic data ecosystem that provides personal value to our information. The differences in experience are subtle but can provide a monumental change in security and optimal use. In the situations where a retailer uses data to provide recommendations vs times that a consumer chooses to share their own data with specific businesses, the outcome is virtually the same: a person will have their data provide them with a personalized shopping experience that benefits them. The vital difference is that in the second case, a consumer is also compensated and can be at less risk of their data being stolen or abused when the incentive to maintain users is created by limiting accessibility to PII (Personal Identifiable Information), forcing security measures to be implemented.

Developing our own data identities is about controlling our online information instead of having our data purchased and used by others to define us. In the end, it is not simply a matter of controlling our data, but realizing the value of it. Controlling our data is only the first step, and one must answer a fundamental questions: how do we standardize the value of our personal data? How do we create an ecosystem where that value can be leveraged without any of the security concerns of the past? Moving forward with this endeavor, we as a community must find the next steps for data rights and consumer relationships.

This article was originally published on EranEyal.com


About the Author

Eran Eyal is an investor, advisor, and award-winning entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in the crowdsourcing, e-commerce and retail markets. Currently, Eyal is the founder and co-CEO of Shopin, where he looks to revolutionize the customer shopping experience by putting individuals in control of their own data.