Happy Data Privacy Day – Why Don’t I Feel Safer

Happy Data Privacy Day – Now stop the hysteria.

In honor of Data Privacy Day (Jan 28th), we must point out how the hysteria over surrounding privacy has created an irrational fear that slows adoption of important technologies and actually hurts people as a result.

Privacy is a serious matter. We all know someone who has had their identity stolen. The financial loss, inconvenience, and personal violation cause identity theft to rank alongside health issues as one of the worst things that can happen to an individual. Our ever expanding digital footprint creates a target-rich environment for criminals that exposes deeply personal matters of finance and individual privacy.

Sadly, many so-called privacy advocates are exploiting this fear to insure their own relevance. They are using opportunities like “Data Privacy Day” to convince consumers to avoid “big data” and opt-out of many modern conveniences. They juxtapose modern data hungry digital services with identity theft, leaving the consumer afraid and confused. The advice is to “just say no” to all matters of digital consent, particularly if there is big data connected to a big company. They promote the idea that large corporations are looking to steal our assets and make huge profits from the details of our lives, leaving us exposed and compromised in the process.

Of course there are unscrupulous companies in today’s world that should not be entrusted with your personal information. There are many firms out there that have historically done a poor job of managing their consumer relationship. A company that positions profits before brand and consumer trust is hardly the model we strive. Instead as consumers, we should insist that these companies implement the kind of rigor that secures our personal data, maintains our privacy, contributes insight and provides consumers the means and option change their mind.
So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The advice and fear mongering promulgated by these Ludites provides no advantage in the digital age. Suggesting that we can and should opt out of modern digital services that aggregate data is like asking us to keep our life savings in our mattress. Should we store our flash drives under our mattress or in our freezer for safekeeping where it will be safe from outside use? Those who do will suffer significant disadvantages compared to those who participate. Deprecating capital assets should be put to better use.

Analytics on Big Data opens doors and offers insights that were never before imagined. Computational analytics on large data sets changes the game in in Agriculture, Health, Automotive, Energy, and almost every other sector. Large aggregated data sets allow science to discover the weakest of signals and amplify those signals in ways that produce predictive and informed insights. That is, unless consumers are frightened into thinking the risks outweigh the rewards.

Instead of alarming consumers about the dangers of participating, we should provide consumers with the facts about big data and the role privacy plays. Privacy advocacy groups would better serve their constituents by detailing the questions people should ask and provide specific demands consumers should make of their personal data suitors.

We at Sphere of Influence have developed our Data Privacy Rules of Engagement. We believe these types of rules are a good approach for consumers who want to be sure that a request for their personal data will yield collective results without compromising their identity.

Sphere of Influence Data Privacy Rules of Engagement
1. First Do No Harm
2. Preserve the Public’s Right to Know
3. Preserve Consumer Right to be Forgotten
4. Preserve Consumer Right to be Remembered
5. Keep Relevancy Relevant

These competing rights and the privacy of the personal components of data can be accomplished through a robust application of process and technology. This in turn can keep private data private, while still allowing aggregated anonymized data to benefit consumers and society at large. These techniques are comprised of a combination of anonymization, multi-mount-point architecture, split repositories for private and service accessible data and a comprehensive service layer that only provides access to the data to which it has rights.

Conclusion

Big data is streaming off our vehicles, portable devices and consumer electronics portraying an important and valuable digital imprint of ourselves. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle. Rather than use hysteria to make consumers run for the hills, we should accept the reality of today’s digital world, embrace the opportunity for advancement in science and insist on a comprehensive approach to data privacy from companies that use them.

Chris Burns, Director
Sphere of Influence Software Studios
-A Premium Analytics Company

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