Archive for December 5th, 2017

I want to explore a couple of ideas. Is data a consumers best friend or worst enemy? Or both? Can they tell the difference? Do they care?

Big data has become the buzz around the silicon valley over the last few decades. Every company strives to not only be a data driven company but also, in many cases, become a “data company.” From the perspective of a data enthusiast this prospect is not only exciting but it also promises many exciting opportunities. However, as we have seen in this class, with these opportunities comes a risk. Throughout this class we have tried to make sense of the blurry line that governs what companies can collect, how they can collect it, and what their duty is to their consumers at the end of the day when it comes to data collection and data privacy.

Many times companies use data in less than ethical ways but in the end it benefits the user. For example let’s assume a hypothetical company scraped information off the web for everyone of their user base so that they can serve up personalized and relevant content to their users. This benefits the users because the personalization makes the product more attractive to them but at the same time it is a clear invasion of their privacy because they are giving the company access to this information. My base question is: do people care? My assumption is that they definitely care, as I am sure everyone in this class’s assumption is. But would the conversation change if they don’t? Put another way – why do we have the rules that we have? Is it because we feel that this is  what the vast population wants or is it because we feel that they need to be protected?

We have a vast array or rules and regulations but, according to an article by Aaron Smith published in Pew Research, about half of online Americans don’t even know what a privacy policy governs. From his article he suggests that the majority of online consumers believe that if a company has a privacy policy they are not allowed to share the data that they receive. Given this research, and many others in the same subject, I think it is reasonable to suggest that we may think that our privacy laws are put into place to protect the population rather than to conform to what they want because for the most part they don’t even understand what we are protecting them from. Or at the very least we have not adequately explained to them what our laws say and how our laws restrict companies.

With that in mind the next logical question is whether the consumer population actually cares. This is the topic of my final project. They may not understand what we are trying to protect them from today but if they did understand it does it matter to them? Would they rather have a more compelling product or would they rather have more control over how their information is being handled? A quick note: I have focused mainly on improving a product because I felt that the question of using it only for the companies gain was not an interesting one. I am interested in what a consumer feels is more beneficial to them – a compelling product or control of their data.

Pew research article: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/04/half-of-americans-dont-know-what-a-privacy-policy-is/