DB QUESTION #1: With agencies collecting so much data and the ability to do so continuing to grow. What information becomes public and private and who calls the shots? We live in a data generated world, but what might the drawbacks be?
We share a lot of personal data with others on and offline on a daily basis. Make a purchase at a store and it’s not unusual for the cashier to request your email and phone number before taking your money. And sometimes their approach makes it seem mandatory for the transaction to go through. Online, the request is more detailed. We entrust brands’ websites with our address, credit card info, name, date of birth etc. Other times even our SIN number. On the more personal end, we have platforms like Facebook and Instagram where we share our likes, interests, status, conversations, phone number, location, private space and our habits with the world. Between businesses and social communication platforms our entire self is scattered online via our shared data.
Regardless of how much information is shared, I think which information goes public or private should only be decided by the person sharing that information, though this is not always the case. Where brands mean to publish and/or use people’s information the intention should be clearly disclosed to provide consumers with a choice and allow them to consent or withdraw from the situation if they see fit. When I share information with a corporation/ organization/agency I do so with the thought that the information will stay between myself and the party, even though usually there’s a fine print about a third party we often overlook. Thus, the responsibility is on the brand to keep my data private. On the other hand, on social spaces, unless I privatize my entire profile, I share information with the idea that this information may possibly spread like wildfire since it can be seen by my network and my network’s network, eventually snowballing through sharing tools. More so, because the platform usually discloses the possibility of third parties seeing your data when you use the platform, your participation is consent to share your data or you opting in to the possibility of your data being public.
Whichever way we share the information there are always draw backs to being in this data driven world. For one, data brokers (legal and illegal) are all too eager to cash in on our “generous” nature. (See infographics on data brokers and types of data they collect). No doubt the incompetence of the agents we share our information with, third parties, and even our ignorance are contributing factors to drawbacks such as data theft, abuse of data by brands and lack of personal control.
Draw backs of Data Generated World
In 2016 a Canadian “fullz” — the basic data needed to steal someone’s identity — was traded for US$20 on the global market. 2014 was a better year though since the price of a “fullz” ranged from $35 to $45. If you have a stolen debit/credit card on hand, that will get you on average “$5 to $30 in the United States; $20 to $35 in the United Kingdom; $20 to $40 in Canada” (http://bgr.com/2015/11/30/dark-web-stolen-data/). Physical documents are pricier. A fake Canadian passport “can run upwards of US$2,600, more than U.S. passports though not as much as those of some European countries” (Dell Secureworks, Huffington Post). Given the price tags, it’s clear that data is money. Especially with most of our data online, our information becomes more accessible to criminal elements who smell a pay day stealing and selling it to the highest bidder for their personal or professional gain. Data theft therefore is one of the biggest drawbacks to our data generated world. What facilitates this is too is that online data collection is fairly new and still growing, and in a rush to collect data companies don’t always invest the necessary time into building secure data security systems, leaving data vulnerable to breaching. If this can happen to major brand like Yahoo, whose 2013 data breach which they discovered in 2016, compromised one billion accounts (making it the biggest breach in history), just think about all the other companies we share our info with, who don’t have the same amount of resources. Data breaches will have a strong effect on the trust between consumer and brand. ( See list of some 2017 data breaches.)
Another way brands lose a consumer’s trust and soil relationships is through poor use of data. If data was properly and moderately used, an agent’s access to our data wouldn’t seem so unnerving. While some brands get it right, many struggle to find the right balance and use of data. Re-marketing, spamming and target marketing are eerie enough. Doing it often, just makes it more obvious. In the real world it’s equivalent to brands going through your bin at night or following you around all day (without your knowledge or consent), then come to your door all week, maybe even a few times a day, with a shopping cart of your favourite things (Hmm, actually that doesn’t sound too bad). Consumers opting in to direct marketing is trusting the brand to access them with information, but no one wants to be bombarded with messages from a brand every hour. It’s annoying. When this happens, people start complaining and brands start losing accounts/followers because it all becomes overbearing.
Where data generators are concerned, sometimes we too eagerly volunteer our data and we don’t often stop to ask why and how the data will be used. And even when we are somewhat aware we still offer our info because our data is an exchange for what we want. But what are we really sacrificing? The average person has 5.54 social media accounts; this may or may not include accounts we forgot we created. The more data we offer online, the harder it becomes to track and remove. The data stays online and is often forgotten. Unfortunately we live in a society that proves that long forgotten information may come back and haunt us. So, one of the saddest realization of this data driven society, then, is the lack of control we eventually have over our privacy and life, as in the case of identity theft.
Lastly, as brands invest more in data and data collection methods, IOT and smart devices will be a more serious touch point for conversation. The type of data collected through connected devices like wearable will be even more instrumental or detrimental to the individual than basic personal info. The type of information being relayed (e.g health) and who collects this information (e.g legal third parties) will impact who the data serves: corporations vs the individual. Smart devices are already relaying information on health to apps 24/7, and with more tech collecting bio-metrics at the touch of our finger tips, data will be even bigger business and bigger target for nefarious activities. We are already seeing smart devices being hacked. I consider this the testing ground for what’s to come. Another impact is that, with the huge focus on & investment in personal data tech (devices), consumers may not have a choice anymore on the type of data they want to share. Sharing certain information may become dependent on the device or tech a consumer purchases. Although groups have been vocal about privacy concerns, it’s possible that in the future, in order to opt out of sharing data, we may have to opt out of certain tech or platform entirely. So do we buy the smart TV or stick to one from 1995? For some that would be a no brainer, but where are you going to find a TV from 1995 in 2025?
For now, the best things we can do for ourselves is to be vigilant about how our information is being used, be more protective of our data, refrain from over sharing personal information, manage our accounts more closely and make brands accountable for protecting the data we give them.
Find and delete old accounts: https://infosecguide.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/find-and-delete-old-social-media-profiles/
Check if your account has been compromised in data breach: https://haveibeenpwned.com/
Erasing yourself from the internet: http://gizmodo.com/how-to-erase-yourself-from-the-internet-1456270634