It seems to me that with the advances in technology and the exponential growth in data collection and storage, companies are increasingly looking to better use this data to gain an advantage.
Which is great and can provide wonderful insights in terms of what your customers want and need – all of which can help you provide better products and services.
But in this brave new world of data – who decides what is OK and what is not?
Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook – if you’ve been living under a rock and are just now turning on a computer for the first time) is infamous for mocking early Facebook users for trusting him with their personal information. (see it here)
Fast forward to just a few months ago and reports of an executive at Uber suggesting they spend money digging up dirt about reporters who give them bad press. That’s bad enough, but it also raises the question of how safe your data is with Uber. If you use the company, then they know exactly when and where you’ve come from and are going to. (see report here)
Then there are the Australian lawmakers on who are proposing to make data retention mandatory for 2 years for all Telcos – so the government could access it if and when they liked because, you know, terrorism. (read about it here)
We live in a brave new world. 80s & 90s science fiction talked about people being ‘lojacked’ where a tracking device is implanted in your head. Well – it never happened. Instead, we all volunteered to be lojacked with open wallets and a smile on our face when we all bought smartphones. (this is not an anti-smartphone rant – I LOVE my iPhone)
The metadata in your phone could probably construct a pretty accurate picture of your day. Therefore, Telcos have a tremendous amount of granular knowledge about us. Same goes for Social Media platforms. The more you interact, the more they know about you.
Banks know a lot about us from how we spend our money.
The concept of big data is to look at systemic and macro patterns to gain insight – not to mine information of a single user. But in collecting all that granular data, the temptation for a business to go looking at an individual increases.
I’m a fan of big data and I think companies should be investing in this tech to better understand the nature of their business and what their customers want – but we need to be careful of how this is done and mindful of the impact it might have on people.
I think we’ll see more examples of companies crossing the line between acceptable and unacceptable in its use of data and metadata in the coming years – especially as companies invest more in this space.
It’s important to always be mindful of your customer. They are the reason you have a business at all.