It’s no secret that technology is evolving at a rapid pace. It gives us an incredible amount of choice, and enables us to do much more with much less. But an increasing number of privacy scandals in the media has prompted consumers to question if they’re actually becoming victims of the technology they can’t live without.
2014 sees us on the edge of a dilemma: is this the year the public puts its foot down and demands more privacy and tighter regulation, or are we OK with giving away our information as long as we get something worthwhile in return?
Towards the end of last year, supermarket giant Tesco announced it would be installing facial recognition screens to its petrol stations that would scan the eyes of queuing customers to distinguish age and gender, as well as monitor customer purchases. Using this information, as well as other contributing factors like time and date, Tesco can tailor the digital ads a customer sees in-store.
A step too far?
Some argue that this is a milestone advance in the way we create and consume advertising. By learning more about us, companies are able to provide us with more relevant information and create a more enjoyable shopping experience. Fair enough. But how much are we willing to give away in this trade-off? There is an entire personal profile of each of us sitting in a big database somewhere, and we have no choice but to trust that companies are using this for our benefit.
Facebook recently admitted they not only track and analyse user clicks, but also their mouse movements, in order to create the most intuitive on-screen experience. And although Google maintain that they have always operated transparently, it’s only recently that the intrusive nature of their email scanning has fully entered the public domain. Even though these internet giants state they don’t use “sensitive” information for advertising, this still seems like a step too far. We’re nearing ever closer to the line between justified market research, to an invasion of privacy, to just downright creepy. The problem is: who decides where that line is? Google’s mantra is “don’t be evil”, which seems noble enough. But why do they get to decide? People are starting to make their own minds up on the matter.
The backlash is imminent
Figures from Databarracks’ 2013 Data Health Check show that nearly two thirds (64%) of UK organisations have started restricting employee use of cloud services like Dropbox and iCloud for fears of security issues, and it’s just a matter of time before consumers start regulating their personal use too.
The recent increase in media attention on the subject of privacy has made us more aware of the risks of sharing information online. At BuddyBackup, we tend to hear from a lot of people who feel much more comfortable sharing their data with family or friends, or setting up their own system, rather than relying on a third party service. Even so, the most common questions we receive are about how we handle data and what information we need to hold in order to be able to connect one Buddy to another. Consumers are becoming more proactive than ever in restricting what companies can share, as well as backing up and encrypting what is stored on personal devices.
While we can control what we share online for the most part, intrusive technologies like facial recognition and email scanning can’t be opted out of, unless the service is boycotted completely. Consumers don’t want to sacrifice personal information for good service – companies either have to increase transparency of the way they collect and use our data, or face the imminent backlash of the more privacy-savvy customer in 2014.
Author: Cassie Holmes, BuddyBackup