On today’s social media and networked communication platforms, we have seemingly grown accustomed to a trade-off between privacy and convenience. To simplify communications and enhance access to others, we hand our personal data over to private companies. Those businesses profit from that data via targeted advertisements and consumer research.
Perhaps we trust that these businesses will take appropriate precautions in protecting our data. Or maybe we just don’t put a high valuation on our own data, and we feel that the benefits of the products are worth the risk.
But growing interest in privacy-related stories indicates that something is starting to change. Consumers are increasingly anxious about a lack of control and poor transparency regarding how their personal information is being used. It just hasn’t translated into action yet – a majority have been reluctant to make meaningful changes in their digital lives to stay protected.
In early 2018, Facebook’s complicity in the Cambridge Analytica scandal served as a potential watershed moment in online privacy. When it emerged that a data consulting firm, which was involved in numerous American political races, used Facebook data on millions of users without authorized access, users could see the consequences of data mining more clearly than they had before. Facebook’s stock took a hit, and regulators called for tighter control.
But the event didn’t seem to have a long-lasting impact on user behavior.
Facebook has been back in the media – for all the wrong reasons – more recently. The company’s second attempt at a VPN product, Onavo, is coming off the Google Play store, after facing criticism for its data mining activity. The app was removed from Apple’s iPhone and iPad App Stores in August because of a violation of Apple’s rules.
The company also has stopped recruiting people for its “Facebook Research” app, which it had been paying teens to use to monitor their data. However, the app will continue running with its existing users.
Whether this latest incident will have a serious impact on users, leading to a greater concern for privacy, is yet to be seen. But if history is any guide, it won’t likely cause lasting changes.
The question remains: What will be the tipping point that gets consumers to take their focus off convenience and focus on privacy?