Opinion

Data Privacy: does anyone care?

September 15, 2021
5
Min read

We’ve all heard the refrain….no-one cares about privacy anymore. I confess, that sometimes I feel the same way, particularly when I see my own family members oblivious to what they are sharing. I’ve even done it myself. Then I realise that it’s not that they don’t care about data privacy, it’s just they don’t have any agency to do anything about it.

I recently gave a talk at Kuppinger Cole European Identity Conference 2021 so had cause to dig into this question afresh. If the newspaper and magazine headlines are anything to go by then data privacy is still very much a live issue.

But what about real people? Surely there must be some examples that would help. I looked at two recent events that could act as a litmus test of public sentiment. The first was Apple’s decision as part of its update to iOS 14.5 that allowed users, for the first time, to control whether or not to allow apps to track their data.

Pretty convincing data but maybe it was skewed towards Apple users. Maybe if I looked at something more serious like helping to fight the Covid pandemic, I’d see a completely different picture?

According to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, even fighting a Global pandemic is not sufficient reason to share data. The willingness to share data to Governments to help contain Covid has actually decreased over the last 12 months. Perhaps not surprising given how some Governments have not been too adept in handling privacy concerns¹. Finally, I was convinced by some latest research by KPMG - Corporate Data Responsibility – in August 2021. The research was conducted in the US but I suspect can be translated across the world. One set of statistics stood out:

The compelling data and research suggest that my original question now needs to be reframed. People most certainly do care about their data privacy. The question now is: how are organisations going to bridge this data privacy chasm?

This a real opportunity for organisations to step up and take a lead. An opportunity for organisations to action rebuilding trust and becoming data sustainable for the future. There are some immediate steps every organisation should start with:

  • Analyse your own ethics around data collection and use. Consider implementing a code of data ethics.
  • Be transparent and explicit around data collection and use and do it in a way that is upfront, easy and clear for everyone to understand.
  • Consider using privacy enhancing technologies to anonymise data or make use of synthetic data.
  • Give people access and control over their data empowering them to gain value and equity by sharing.
  • People openly admit they don’t know how to protect their personal data and they are rightly peeved that organisations aren’t doing much to help.

Take the lead now in establishing corporate data responsibility.

Meeco can help provide the infrastructure you need to bridge the data privacy chasm.

Reference:[1] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jul/20/uk-government-admits-breaking-privacy-law-with-test-and-trace-contact-tracing-data-breaches-coronavirus

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About the author

A highly strategic, technical and commercially astute executive. Jason Smith has over 20 years of experience of starting, growing and managing businesses. The last 10 years of which have been with data businesses. Prior to joining Meeco, Jason led a global project within Experian as part of their global data innovation team (‘Dx’) focusing on consent, data sharing & privacy. He also co-led projects on digital ID, privacy enabling technologies and consumer personal data management applications. Jason also contributed to Experian’s response to the 2020 EU Data Strategy consultation.

Previously, he established a research data lab as part of ScaleUpNation, in Amsterdam, using machine learning & network science to research ‘what lies behind a successful scale-up’. Prior to that Jason co-founded and was CEO of Blurrt, a social media data intelligence software using AI natural language processing for sentiment and emotional analysis as well as topic clustering. Blurrt achieved a number of UK technology awards and firsts - notably real time analysis of political debates and sports matches using tweets which were broadcast live.

Jason has written, presented and produced 3 radio documentaries for BBC on technology (‘BeingSocial’ on social media & data; ‘Becoming Artificial’ on AI & what it means for humans and ‘Going Viral’ on the use of technology during the first Covid lockdown). In addition Jason has written and been invited to speak on data & AI. He is a member of the European AI Alliance and was previously recognised by TechCityInsider as one of the top 200 tech entrepreneurs in the UK.

Outside of work, he cycles.

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