The Social Power of Data
Data Protection is about Control
Today’s advertising is a complex interconnected infrastructure. You control your data and understanding what that means today, along with how it affects your privacy, is extremely important for your daily life and your future. Owning your data, keeping your data private means that you control your data and your destiny.
Years ago, privacy meant something very different than its definition as applied to your personal information today. The harm that can come from the abuse of your digital data or other violations of your privacy is numerous. It’s just another day in your life, and every move you make is being monitored. From the calls you make, which send digital information to your provider and adds to the database, they keep on the digital information they maintain on you and your phone calls. They know when you made the call, whom you called, what time of day, and so on. Google chimes in and gives up your location data. Facebook throws in any relevant data they have on you as well.
As your cell’s microphone picks up words in your conversations, you start to see advertising targeted directly at you. You and your mom have been having conversations about adopting a dog from a local shelter. Suddenly, you’re aware that ads for pet products are creeping into every aspect of your online world. Do you need a new dog bed? How about some Science Diet dog food? You don’t recall seeing these things before, but the fact is, you haven’t even adopted that dog yet. So, how did they know?
Your Data in a Pandemic
Controlling your personal information puts the power in your hands. There is real strength in the ability to keep your data under lock and key. Now that the world is facing a global pandemic, who is after your personal information now? Don’t laws protect you from having your privacy violated with the use of your data? That can depend on how tight you keep the reins on your data.
Authorities and other health officials can only understand the virus and how it affects the population if they have access to data on its disease course and the rate of spread throughout the community. While it would be nice if they asked you for permission and asked you specific questions allowing you the choice of what information you’d like to give, it doesn’t work that way.
While hospitals, schools, and digital platforms have been increasingly stressed with patient information, scared public citizens are looking for information. Everyone and even children by the millions turning to the internet full time for their education, there has been even more requests by companies and government agencies for information on patients and users. What about privacy laws like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)? These laws have different applications during national emergencies and declared global pandemics.
When the public health is at risk, your privacy goes out the window—the only way for the government to organize a responsible national response is to handle truths. Asking several health questions directly to the average citizen, many people hide the facts. Even sometimes, unintentionally. Health questions can be embarrassing or even unsettling, so patients may not give entire answers. When it’s a war against an invisible threat ready to take out a percentage of the population, there’s no time for half-truths.
During a time of national emergency or a world-wide declared global pandemic, privacy laws are limited. Health records are open to those agencies with access. While the rules are temporarily relaxed, third parties find ways to access this information, too.
Using Inclusive Disruption to Grow
Companies look for distinctive ways to grow their customer bases. How they obtain your personally identifying data through various means is of no consequence to them. Privacy laws are not advanced enough to restrain the abuse, or the fines are not large enough to restrict companies from abusing data anyway, because the profit margin exceeds the loss of each data point they are fined for through the courts.
Even in parts of the world where internet access through computers is limited, cell phone data can still be traced and quantified into databanks. No one on any part of the globe is immune from data abuse anymore. Where major players are concerned, inadequate data is not a reasonable excuse for exclusion, expansion, or setting themselves up for future profits.
Technology does not have to be sophisticated to have an impact on society. In barely reachable areas of the world, such as in Ghana and Kenya, where there may be little available electricity, these power-house companies are using inclusive disruption as a means to grow their ever-expansive empires. Using non-profits to enter the regions, they bring information to the residents via easy to use Talking Book audio devices. They are designed specifically for the area and made to reach even those who can’t read. They work on available local batteries.
These ‘Talking Books’ use a cloud-based technology platform with an audio content manager. The apps provide playlists but also collect data and feedback from the field. There is an analytics dashboard for monitoring and evaluating the data from every community. Presented as a method of user engagement and education, the reality is that the World Bank is collecting data for further expansion in different economic regions of the world.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how far you run. If you are connected to an internet device of any type, then you are being tracked. You are traced through network applications, social networks, and satellites. The only way to take back control and have the power in your hands is to limit the data you provide. It’s your data, and it’s your personal information; if you want to have the power, don’t give it away.
Data and Diversity
Taking control of your personal data is one way to protect yourself from bias. Consider that AI or artificial intelligence is prepared to consume and infiltrate all areas of our lives over the next several years. AI will control everything from essential customer service roles to financial advice, job recruitment and placement, and even medical services. Is it of concern that the current environment of AI professionals is only 22% female and 78% male on a global basis?
Could bias affect you in your daily life? The facts are that by 2025, 95% of all customer interactions will be driven by AI, and the AI developed for these systems will mimic humans so closely that customers will be unable to tell bots from human workers whether they are using chat or phone services. Today, in 2020, 30% of all B2B companies employ AI to supplement their primary sales operations. Currently, 80% of European companies are integrating AI for their customer and business analytics.
If AI is so great, then what is the problem? The problem is that we, as humans, are imperfect, and humans built artificial intelligence systems. Therefore, they, too, are flawed. The risk is that rather than solving the gender bias issue, AI will intensify the problem.
Artificial intelligence uses machine learning and algorithms built by humans to learn from real-world data. It can, and will, involuntarily, intensify the problem of gender biases. Results are predicted that by 2022, only two years away, that 85% of AI projects will deliver inaccurate outcomes due to bias in data. This can be the result of machine learning, algorithms, or even the teams who are charged with overseeing the management of the AI.
Right now, gender bias is happening as top jobs, which bolster and increase the pay gap, target ads for better-paying jobs towards men. At the same time, virtual assistants or lower-paying subservient-types of office jobs are targeted towards women in advertisements. Artificial intelligence portrays these types of positions more as ‘female-oriented,’ at the same time, more women than men are forecasted to lose their jobs to automation.
Mind Your Manners
Brands are also paying close attention, not just to your gender, but to behavioral data. It may be a good idea to start minding your manners, as you are literally under surveillance. To market their products, brands realize that if they don’t pay attention to the behaviors of their customers, then they miss out on potential marketing strategies to sell their wares.
Companies are out there getting to know you on a deep and personal level. They may even know you better than you know yourself. Behavior data differs from static data. Static data is data that does not change once it has been recorded. Static data can be information such as whom you called, what time it was, where you were located at the time you placed the call. These are examples of static data. Behavioral data can be dynamic or fluid; it can change over time. Suppose a customer likes ice cream, data shows that the customer purchases a particular variety regularly. The customer decides to make dietary changes and lose weight. One of the things the customer has done is cut out or buy a lot less ice cream. The data input has changed based on the customer’s behavior or actions.
Companies pay a great deal of money for profiles from social media accounts to find out about the behaviors of their customers. Ever wonder what information is purchased about you and why? Examples of behavioral data include tracking the web pages that you visit—getting to know you on a very personal level. They use databases to define you by the people you associate with on social media, who and what you ‘like,’ and what items you are purchasing online from different retailers. The data file that corporations have on you is far more extensive than that of your physician, or even your psychiatrist if you also have one. Then they turn around and use that same data to manipulate you, drown you in ads tailored to make you see the world in a specific way. Only offer you the products that they believe you deserve, need, or would be willing to purchase. The guy on your left, he’s got a different show going.
Who’s Following You?
At this point, everyone. There is no need to get paranoid. You can take control. Taking control of the data that you send, receive, and release online is a way to take power back into your hands and away from the corporations who may want to use it in ways that could be malicious or even manipulating. Taking back control opens the world up to you for even greater possibilities. Without constraints and bias, you have more freedom. You are offered more opportunities in life. Take time to read more about taking control of your own personal information and what you can do to shut down the corporate sucking of data at your expense. Sometimes it might require hitting the ‘off’ button. That’s ok. Many of us need to remember that there is a world of possibilities – outside, in nature; we don’t need to have a leash. Get out and take your dog for a walk. Set yourself free.