Friday, February 21, 2014

Too Spy or not Too Spy: There should be no Question!

Digital Analytics is here to stay there is no question. With all the optimization, efficiency and the ability to better target your audience, the appeal is natural and understandable. With this in mind; how do we sure up the data so as to maintain privacy in an increasingly “Peeping Tom” environment?

Today’s Information environment is vast; companies have figured ways to collect data from their users in ways never before believed possible. When, where, how much, frequency, and the list goes on for what is being collected. Devices to chart sleep patterns, location, steps per day, mood when buying based on patters, items related to current purchase based on previously collected data, etc. All this advancement with one real goal; money! No I mean a happier you oops. A Nobile goal on the surface but who is looking at it from any other angle, is another perspective even necessary?

Let’s start with no. No we have no need to be concerned. No one cares about this data, at least not from a malicious standpoint. Even if they did we have randomized it so that users are protected and kept anonymous. In fact all we know is IP address activity, not even who is using it. Or in other cases, yes we know who they are, they created an account but we enforce strict security measures to prevent the malicious use of our user’s data. We would never allow access to our data without going through the proper channels and following regulation.

While this sounds good on the service and it might even be true let’s look at it from another angle. And let’s call this angle “Current Events”. For the past several months we have read articles about a man named Edward Snowden, Articles about the “NSA” National Security Agency, and how they are behaving with our information and who/how they are obtaining it. There are even articles about other countries spying for many years on our data and we are just finding out. http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2014/02/mask/

We should now look at this phenomenon from another angle. Our data is not private! It is neither safe nor secure! It is being sold to the highest bidder with whatever motives suit the buyer as it is not in the sells best interest to ask. And most people don’t understand what that means in breadth or depth.

This is not an environment of privacy! In fact most people, especially the elderly, have no idea they are consenting to the whoring of their data in the first place (even if they did hit the “I agree” button at the end of their 5,000th, 200page consent form). Hopefully no atrocities are going to be committed by the data being collected/used this way, at least we all hope there aren’t (makes you wonder what the NSA told AT&T to leave out of their report, http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2014/02/ma-bell-non-transparency/ ). This begs the question. What might happen if the data was to be used maliciously? Who would be accountable?

With statements like this from Google “users have no legitimate expectation of privacy” what does that mean for the future. http://www.digitaltrends.com/web/google-gmail-users-have-no-expectation-of-privacy/ If I want to keep my information private how do I do this and still participate in this wave of future with all of its convince and pizazz? Is it reasonable for a non IT expert to go off the grid in hopes to keep some privacy? Do I forego all the sales and deals associated with this data collection movement? Or do we look at protecting the users privacy TRULY while still collecting the necessary data? There seem to be a few companies who have this mind set and users appreciate it.

It is important for the Data Analytics of the future to keep the trust of its data pool. There is very much a symbiotic relationship between the two and the relationship needs to remain pure. No more NSA “gifts”, no more selling your user data unless completely anonymous (it’s not anonymous if our email is getting spammed or our phones are being called by the company that bought our data). Protect the privacy of your users and Karma will make sure it comes back to you!