Editorials, Ethics, Security

We’re At A Critical Tipping Point Data Control and Privacy-Wise

This is an incredibly important time in the life of a data professional I believe.  These are times that are going to shape exactly what’s expected of us all in terms of data ownership, data protection, data privacy, data security and so-on.  All of those things sort of fall under the heading of Data Management, particularly when you consider the two or three big stories of the day.

First, you have GDPR which is looming with a late-May implementation timeframe.  This is not a small thing but unfortunately is also not a very well-defined thing.  We’re going to have to work together with users, administrators, users and processors of data to figure out what expectations and requirements really are.  There are some great concepts, there are some pretty odd requirements that have far-reaching implications when it comes to working with data and information and personally identifiable bits.  How this all plays out will likely make a good number of folks in the legal profession a great deal of money.

Second, you have the VERY fluid and VERY unknown issues circling Facebook and the analytics firms they worked with, along with the campaigns and others that have used their information, their systems and ultimately, YOUR data.  It remains to be seen what the facts are (and whether we’re ever really destined to know those facts in a general population kind of way) but this, to me, is a watershed moment.

Before, when there were data breaches, you were looking at credit companies or financial institutions or other places where, when it came right down to it, you didn’t have much choice.  It just happened, we all winced from the “not again!” realization and there wasn’t much to be done.

But we have a choice with this one.  And I think this choice is going to determine a number of things going forward. The choice is whether we continue to use the tool that is, at best, allowing targeting, and at worst giving away very concise information about its users, without consent.  In other words, pretty much side-stepping any concept of privacy or ownership.

Now, sure.  For years we’ve all been saying “if you’re not paying for the service, YOU are the product.”  But it’s never been at any specific level.  It’s “you visited this page, you may be interested in x, y or z” type stuff.  It wasn’t what is being leveled at the folks behind these systems of data use at this point.

I think the choice of “go with the flow” or “find a different system” will determine how data is used and how we interact with our digital personalities in a very big way.  From a data management standpoint, this sort of line in the sand will determine how serious people are about their personal information.  This time, they have a choice.  Will they take it?  If so, it’s serious.  If not, isn’t it really more of a lip-service thing that people say they’re worried, but…

And for us managing the information, for us responsible for keeping the information safe and appropriately used, doesn’t all of this sort of determine the future expectations that will be applied using tools like GDPR, and the legislation that is sure to follow all that’s happening now?  I suspect that almost no matter the outcome and factual information about this all ends up being, that legislation will surely be forthcoming.  Again, this will mean figuring out how to build, architect, deploy and manage systems that have the smallest bits of information about us all.

Or, it could turn out that people really don’t care.  They’ll continue using platforms, tools and other items that abuse the trust and that, in turn, will help drive the decisions on how you manage data for your stakeholders.  It’s going to be a very interesting time to see, when the rubber meets the road, how people really value their digital footprint.