Technology Still Winning Against Privacy in Today’s Digital World
You may have heard of the familiar adage, “Everything in life has its price.”
American writer Harry Browne expounds on it by saying, “There’s a price to pay if you want to make things better, a price to pay just leaving things as they are, a price for everything.”
One way to interpret the meaning behind it is that people have to give up something in exchange for what they want or need.
Obviously, you need to pay for your lunch or dinner because you don’t get free meals in everyday – normal circumstances.
However, the price being referred to in this quote isn’t limited to the monetary value that you lose when you purchase goods or services.
Rather, it also applies to the intangible sacrifices that you need to make for the sake of receiving a certain payoff.
This brings to mind the subject matter of privacy, which is a growing concern for innumerable people who use digital technologies be it in their personal or professional life. It seems that in exchange for the conveniences that advanced gadgets and connectivity offers, users give up their personal information and digital footprint.
Data: The Price to Pay
Before the explosion of technology, privacy was something that had been associated mostly with famous celebrities. With their popularity, they cannot afford to keep their life away from the watchful eyes of the public, especially the media.
However, in these times that we’re living in, it’s easy for anyone’s information—not just that of celebrities and other public personalities—to be accessed online.
For example, Google, the world’s largest search engine, has the ability to predict what internet users are looking for when they make a search query based on their browsing activity. When smartphone owners have their privacy settings turned on, it’s easy for Google to track the places they’ve visited, the activities they did, the things they bought, and so on.
Meanwhile, app users don’t have to input their contact details and other data each time they log into the service. Artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies make it possible for computer applications to save user information, ready to be pulled up at any given time. Apps are poised to become even more sophisticated in the near future as developers create hardware that has biometric authentication capabilities, especially in the virtual reality space.
Social media isn’t free from data privacy issues, either. In fact, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has been questioned by the U.S. Senate in 2018. That was the time when it was discovered that a third-party app got hold of the personal data of Facebook users who had installed a personality quiz app using their social media account, raising concerns that users’ data can be mishandled.
In the marketing world, it seems that personalization, data, and privacy are deeply intertwined, meaning customers are aware that giving their data exposes them to the risk of privacy breaches, but they do it anyway for the potential benefits they could get.
Thus, your customers provide you with their personal data on the premise that it will help your business customize your products or services based on their individual preferences.
Data Privacy: What Is It Really?
It’s common to use the terms data privacy and data security interchangeably, but the easiest way to distinguish one from the other is to know which entity is responsible for what. Basically, privacy is user-focused whereas security is more of a concern among companies that utilize customer data as part of their business strategy.
In other words, it’s in the control of users to set boundaries as to who can have access to all or part of their data, while companies are expected to keep the integrity or safety of their user data—which brings us to the question below.
Can Technology and Privacy Work Together?
Truth be told, not everyone is impressed with technology. For instance, older generations are less likely to adopt modern tools, and would rather stick to their old, familiar ways of doing things.
Then again, you have to consider the fact that more and more people, especially among millennials and Gen Zers, are dependent on technology now more than ever. For them, technology is a necessity in life. It’s convenient, simple, quick, and fun to use.
As long as their devices are connected to the internet, they can do just about anything—search for information, send direct or private messages, read or watch the news or their favorite show, play games, listen to music, shop online, order food, book a ride, pay bills, take up a course, the list goes on—anytime, anywhere.
All of these activities require users to leave their personal information in the hands of another party. This makes it important for someone to draw the line when it comes to how businesses should handle users’ information or data.
As business owners, organizational leaders, company decision makers, or marketers, you have a big role to play in making sure that you put your customers’ best interests first and foremost. You’re free to use technology to make it easy for you to learn more about your customers, but you should never use technology to put your buyers’ or customers’ privacy at risk.
Here are some things to remember:
1. Be transparent.
To help users decide if they’re fine with you using their data, you need to have clear-cut guidelines in place. Let them know what data you’re collecting and how you intend to use it. This way, they can determine what or how much information they’re willing to share with you.
Transparency also applies when you choose to be honest with your customers in case a data breach happens. It doesn’t reflect well on a business if it tries to cover up any case of data theft or data breach, regardless if the company’s intention is more on damage control and not to keep customers in the dark.
2. Give your customers a choice.
No business should ever impose any data collection policies or practices from customers. If you have subscribers who want to opt out of your mailing list, don’t make it hard for them to unsubscribe.
At the very least, you could use your unsubscribe page to ask users about why they’re choosing to leave your platform or service, as well as ask them how they propose to make things better for them moving forward.
3. Use data to improve customer experience.
In the past, customer loyalty was based on how good a particular product or service is, but technology has since changed that perception. Today, customers are faced with hundreds to thousands of choices, so they expect companies to leave no stone unturned in delivering the best customer experience possible.
With customer data in your hands, you can gain more insights about your target market. This should then help you make informed decisions on what you can do to better help your customers in their buying journey and ultimately meet their expectations.
At the end of the day, you want to be that company that customers can trust not only with their business but also with their personal data. With that data, you can better understand your customers’ needs and provide the best solutions to their most pressing challenges.
Alex Hunter is a Business Development Representative from ImageWare Systems. She has spent the past 8 years working to develop market awareness of, what is now recognized to be, one of the world’s leading 2FA/ Multi-Factor Biometric Authentication solutions available today.