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Towards transparency and privacy in the online advertising business

Privacy in the Information Society – Part 2

In addition to being a fundamental right, privacy is a determining factor in the exercise of power that affects directly the freedom and creativity of the citizens. In this two-part article we analyse why privacy is important, which improvements have been introduced by the new technologies in relation to the treatment of our personal information, which is the perception of the citizens and how to move towards a sustainable ecosystem that improves the confidence between the users and the different agents who intervene in our privacy. We live in an increasingly global and interconnected world, one in which there is more information about the privacy of the citizens generated by the environment agents: devices, social networks, vigilance systems, etc. We come to the conclusion that the balance of the ecosystem is ruled by the next equation:

control + transparency + trust + business

WHY IS OUR DATA IMPORTANT?

Many articles refer to the personal information as the new fuel of the modern economies. The value on the markets of some of these companies, whose business relies on the exploitation of personal data, demonstrate empirically this affirmation.

The detailed knowledge of the persons who use their services has allowed, many of these companies, to develop attractive products and services for both for the advertising companies and for the private users, which in general terms use these services for free in return of the right to exploit the information provided by the user itself to the company.

Another trend that is consolidating in the shape of new applications and services, are the virtual assistants whose aim is to provide what we need in every moment. We just need to ask using our mobile phones and Watson or Siri will automatically provide what we need, custom tailored to our individual needs. This is only possible if those who give us these new services know us better than we do ourselves.

In addition, these assistants, whom we reach through the microphone of our mobile devices, need our microphone to be permanently open, and this is raising new challenges in terms of privacy.

WHERE IS THE BALANCE BETWEEN PRIVACY AND DATA COLLECTION?

Finding balance is the key to a stable development since the majority of the services that we use are based on a relation of trust between the user and the company which provides them.

It is true that the citizen is the first one being charmed with all these new apps and free services that make life easier for them and that the companies whose business models are based on the exploitation of the users’ personal information are developing the tools to give the user a better control of his privacy. However, it is not less true that the centre of the current ecosystem is controlled by these companies that act like sharers of the gathered information.

The level of concern about privacy by the Internet users is low since, in general, they tend to trusts the ecosystem. The average citizen does not know who are those with   access to their information, how it is gathered, how it is or can be used and has no clue of the value of his personal information.

Nevertheless, the users value their privacy and there is an increasing trend that starts asking where the limits are and if there are imbalances that should be corrected.

It is therefore everyone’s responsibility to sensitize society and its citizens to stop being passive agents that become active participants in managing their privacy.

For this to happen it is important to provide society with tools and a regulatory framework to enable them to know, among others who, how, and when their personal data is used, the price this data has and the value that it generates when we use different applications, as well as give them the option to easily manage and centralize their privacy.

Another way to empower the citizen is to allow them to have real access to their personal data regardless of who has collected it and this means access in open formats or standard interfaces, that convert closed silos (where our data is currently locked) into reusable resources managed by who the user decides and not by the applications that gather the information.

In my opinion, the change happens by putting people at the centre of the ecosystem, space which is now occupied by the companies that collect our data. A real and effective right to know the personal information they have of us and the right to share and have access to our personal information as we please.

In conclusion, all of the above makes the following equation real:

equation

Read Part 1 of this blog article here.

About the author
Miguel Pérez Subías | AUI

Miguel Pérez Subías | AUI

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