Your data and your convenience, or the price you pay in privacy
The most successful platforms in the internet know a lot about you and that is what makes them so successful. Spotify for example, has smart algorithms that figure out what you might like to make sure you use their service as long as possible. Using your preferences and comparing that with the preferences of others. Finding similarities and serving you the content that matches your taste, and they are good at it.
TikTok owns the highest attention levels of our youth globally by combining fun video tricks, fun content and learning algorithms that pick the content their users might like. And they do that better than any other platform does at the moment. Amazon keeps growing by offering anything and everything you might want to order online, and smart algorithms that are capable of predicting what you might like to order next. Netflix suggests you what to watch by comparing what you have watched with what others have watched and making you suggestions based on data and patterns.
Those are just a few examples and we see that the platforms which have the highest popularity and usage are the ones that are the champions of collecting data on preferences of their users and making suggestions based on that. All for a simple business purpose, to make sure that you continue to use their services and do so more than yesterday. And it works, because we like it.
Predicting consumer behavior based on collected data is nothing new and the accuracy with which it is now deployed brings us as the consumers what we want the most. Convenience! There is no need to search through the enormous offerings of Netflix because Netflix makes us smart suggestions. It is impossible to review all items on Amazon because even when we search for a specific item, Amazon will make us suggestions based on what Amazon knows about our preferences. All that keeps us happy, increases customer satisfaction and adds to the revenues of our providers. Win-win!
It becomes a whole different ballgame when those providers start to use the data they have on us for other purposes. Like selling our data to the highest bidder. Or allowing third parties to selectively provide us with information that serves their agenda, based on the data they collected on us. It gets even worse when our personal data gets stored by companies we have never interacted with and we fully depend on their capabilities to keep our data safe and secured against hackers and cyber criminals.
The majority of data breaches involves data from third parties. Data on us, collected by companies we never provided data to. Data on us, sold as a valuable commodity although we never authorized that willingly. Data on us that could expose us to scammers. Data that can include our credit card details. Data on us that is being sold by cyber criminals to other cyber criminals on darknet platforms. Our data, collected for our convenience, sold and used for commercial purposes and in most cases without us being aware of it!
Data is power and data can mean convenience. As the many data breaches show us, data is handed over for the right price to whomever is willing to pay that price. The price we pay for it is an ongoing devaluation of our privacy. Facebook is a powerhouse on consumer data and (ab)using that for commercial purposes. Although they get the majority of the attention when it comes to consumer privacy abuse and data breaches, they are far from the only company that makes a significant profit on collecting your personal data and selling what is nothing less than a human right: your privacy!
Can we stop this? No! Even if we would stop using social media, data is still being collected on us. Yes, even if we would stop using the internet entirely, there are still plenty opportunities to collect data. And we would lose something we have learned to appreciate so much in the last decade: convenience! So what can we do to at least decrease the negative impact of that convenience?
- Regularly check the security and privacy settings of our apps and platforms.
- Remove every app we are no longer using.
- Think before we share information, and asks ourselves why we would have to share so much personal information with every company we connect with.
- Don’t assume your data is safe just because the company you give it to says so…
Privacy and data security starts with us, between our ears, with what we do and with what we don’t do. Think more, share less!