The Platform economy is changing the world as we know it. In the first 3 parts of the Platform Wars we discussed the rise of monopolies, emergence of new age disruptors, and the battle for protection of Intellectual Property.
Let us turn to the defining issue of the Platform economy during the last year – Privacy. As more and more of our waking hours are spent online or connected through some device to the internet – the issue has assumed proportions beyond simply Data Privacy to Individual Privacy. And the ad-line type realization, that was the quote of 2018 – If you are getting something free, then you are the Product !
While data security issues and data breaches have become commonplace since 2004, this year data privacy hit global public consciousness like never before. Thanks to Facebook, which today claims every 3rd person on the planet as a user. In March 2018, it came to light that Facebook has allowed unauthorized access to personal data of 87 million users – to an independent researcher conducting a pop-online quiz subscribed to by 300k users. Unfortunately Facebook security, enabled access to data of all friends in the social network of these users. This data was then used by Cambridge Analytica, a specialized political consulting firm that mined it and provided insights to run targeted social media campaigns – that some say, could have influenced the outcome of the US Presidential election in 2016.
That wasn’t all – hackers targeted Facebook in September, through another loop-hole in its security for 3rd party apps – to access personal data of 5o million users.
Considering Facebook deals with thousands of 3rd party developed applications – and is also often the default login for users to access other platforms like Instagram, the scale of potential impact both in the numbers of users and the nature of type of data accessed – is huge.
As data becomes the “new oil” everyone wants it. It is not only about unauthorized access by hackers. Large internet monopolies like Facebook, Amazon and Google – through their platforms and devices have access to data about our every like we express, buying choice we make and search interest we have. Together with their AI algorithms, these Platforms, know us better, than we know ourselves! While this is a matter of great convenience to us as consumers, and value to the platform businesses – at what point will we regard this knowledge to be intrusive and invasion of our privacy?
And what use of this knowledge is justified – targeting the most attractive vacation holidays to us, knowing our interests? Targeting loans and financial products to us, knowing our bank balance so that we can afford that vacation? Targeting the most relevant vacation itinerary to us, knowing the time we wake up and go to sleep? The possibilities are endless!
Or what about targeting information (or fake news) to us that helps us make our minds up about a political candidate? Racial and community profiling of a certain region to decide which services to offer?
As with all technologies, the possibilities of misuse, equal the opportunities to add value.
With the exponential and accelerating growth of data, ensuring security is a continuous challenge. At a systemic level, the EU has launched the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018 – after 4 years of deliberation – to fundamentally reshape the way organisations handle citizen and consumer data in the European Union. India, is also one step closer to our own data privacy law – with the tabling of the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018
While systemic safeguards will take their own course, and as much as the right to privacy is a fundamental right – there is also a responsibility with individual users and consumers. To make conscious choices of the data they share online, with an understanding of the implications of how the data can be used. To make a conscious distinction between the public and the private.
With the relentless march of technology and all pervasive ‘connectedness’, this choice is unfortunately becoming harder all the time – and the distinction between public and private ever more blurred.
The Platform Wars – 1
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