It’s one of the hottest talking points today. On the one hand, individuals place an extremely high value on their privacy. On the other hand, it’s impossible to control everything that you do and say on the internet, and a lot of that information is used by companies to give you an improved user experience online. Unfortunately, some of that information can also be detrimental to you too.
The debate is raging on whether consumer privacy enhances or inhibits the overall user experience online. Certainly there’s no concrete answer at this point; however, there are important questions that both consumers and companies need to ask in order to ensure that consumer trust isn’t violated and that businesses can succeed and make the most of online technology.
Two reasons that the online privacy debate is picking up steam are, first the widespread implementation of big data technology and programs like Hadoop Hive, and two, the increasing use of the internet and the IoT — Internet of things.
We are more connected to the web than ever before. It’s always at our fingertips with phones, tablets, computers and it’s nearly everywhere in our home from TVs to cars to appliances.
Because of our connection to the internet we’re creating more data than ever before. The overall data store is growing exponentially. That has spurred the growth of big data technology, and with that technology companies can gather huge amounts of information, much of it personal information from users like you and me. Companies can gather browsing data, purchase history, Facebook posts, Tweets, chatroom conversations and a host of other things.
So, is that good or bad? Consumers argue it’s a violation of their privacy, while businesses argue it’s not and that it actually enhances the user experience.
It’s a difficult question to answer, but it helps to ask some follow up questions when determining whether privacy enhances or inhibits the user experience.
What information is being collected?
It’s important that individuals understand what information companies are and aren’t collecting. Companies in general aren’t gathering information like social security numbers, driver license numbers, or other information like that. They gather what you willingly give — a credit card number, address, phone number, etc. They also gather information that you unknowingly are giving — posts, tweets, chats, purchases, searches and other information.
Why is the information being collected?
Companies that use big data, are using it to increase the consumer experience. They don’t just gather the information for information’s sake, or to invade the user’s personal life. The information is gathered to drastically improve products and services along with marketing efficiency, product placement and other business operations. Companies use it to give you better products and to help them be more efficient.
The hard part is that so many people have different views on privacy. Some people are completely fine with their lives being open and available on the internet, whereas others are highly uncomfortable with it. To add to the confusion, there are few real ground rules for data gathering or privacy.
In addition to that, the privacy policies put forth by companies are so long and complex that it’s nearly impossible for the average individual to really understand. Which means that while most companies are gathering data for the reasons mentioned above, a small number may not be, but the consumer doesn’t know that.
The key for companies and individuals is to establish a common ground where consumers have more control over what is and isn’t gathered, and where they also can have more trust in the company’s data gathering techniques and ability to make that data secure via network security. It’s hard to willingly give information when there’s so much in the way of scams and hacks on the internet.
So, does privacy enhance or inhibit the user experience? It depends. A certain amount of privacy is good for consumer and company. Too much or too little, however isn’t.