How Can Data Privacy Co-Exist with Data Intelligence in this Age?

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If one were to describe the modern lives we lead today, one of the most prominent aspects that they’d have to shine a light on would be data.

Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, everyone that is a key player in the modern-day digital climate – which includes companies that we seemingly trust, to the gadgets that have become a necessity to the modern way of living – collects sensitive information about their users, in an attempt to provide to consumers a more “customized” experience.


In the modern information age, however, with an ever-increasing number of companies and enterprises relying on data collection to improve their business functions, there is a certain level of protection that sensitive information requires. Will Ellis, a data scientist at community-funded VPN research group Privacy Australia, was recently asked about data privacy, saying, “As data collection becomes more widespread in the upcoming years, it is pivotal for organizations to honor the notion of user privacy, which also brings forth questions and doubts about the coexistence of data privacy with data intelligence.”

Having said that, however, before we can get into the highly crucial debate of data privacy hindering the growth of data intelligence, we need to realize the monumental impact that data has had on our lives. In addition to data taking over oil as the most valued resource of our time, data is now a resource that can be leveraged from the most obscure of places.

If you ever thought that the place you checked into for lunch on Facebook was yet another useless, little detail considering the banality of your life- think again. The information that you willingly post on your social media account can easily be leveraged by third parties, which shady intent, to place you in a filter bubble and bombard you with the perils of targeted advertising.

And if that wasn’t enough damage, the weak protection encompassing the whopping amount of personal information being shared on social media sites can also have devastating consequences for users. A popular, yet unfortunate example of this is when applicants get rejected for jobs based on the pictures they shared on Instagram.

With that being said, the lucrativeness of data has revealed to the world it’s the dark side, and the power that information has over individuals, going as far in some cases, to have a deep-rooted impact on election results, and possibly altering them as well. Taking the blatant exploitation of data into account, the dire need for better information and data ethics to be enforced becomes explicitly obvious.

What Exactly is the Difference Between Data Privacy and Data Intelligence?

Despite the phrases ‘data privacy’ and ‘data intelligence’ highlighting the difference between themselves in their name, there are still many individuals who harbor the false belief that the enforcement of tight data regulatory laws is somehow obstacles in advancements being made in the data intelligence industry.

Although it’s true that the laws governing data collection, and information ethics are getting increasingly stringent on some levels, there are still several exploitable loopholes present within those data regulatory laws and ethics, that enable the concept of data retention to be legitimized for organizations. Despite the level of protection surrounding personal information increasing within the past years, with the latest regulations ruling in favor of persons requesting the immediate deletion of data that was collected without their consent, along with any other adjacent information related to them.

The implementation of the aforementioned laws and regulation is extremely difficult since the internet allows for “traces” of users to be left behind them while browsing, which are really hard to completely eradicate since these traces are supervised and processed through advanced systems, tailor-made for the processing of personal information. The problem with the implementation of data privacy gets even direr when we take into account the availability of robust search engines that continue to create discrepancies, by bringing to surface data about users, which is then used for operations that the user probably does not even know about.

Having said that it is extremely crucial that enterprise owners, employees along data policymakers realize that the right to collect information should always go in tandem with the right to privacy of the subjects from which the data is being extracted. In some cases, however, despite individuals realizing the importance of data collection in providing consumer’s a tailor-made experience, along with the significance of protecting an individual’s privacy – the rampancy and popularity of search engines make the task of providing data privacy to consumers much easier said than done.

The Problem With Our Current Perception of Personal Information:

One of the most important aspects of running a business in the modern business climate, which is heavily influenced by the digital environment, is the reliance that enterprises have on data to provide to their consumers a more “customized” experience.

By a customized experience, enterprises refer to selling consumers products that they’re more likely to buy, based on placing them in a specific consumer category as suggested by the picture that the collected data points about them. A basic and highly common example of targeted advertising is when Google uses the data you’ve entered to provide you with customized search results, and adverts that you’re most likely to click on.

In other, simpler words, the more data that a piece of information has about you- including the most menial of your likes and dislikes- the higher are the chances of them selling you their products, which further demonstrates our point of data being the most powerful tool that a modern-day business can utilize. Keeping this in mind, most enterprises are more than willing to enter the gray area as far as the collection of additional data is concerned since the collected data can always be leveraged later on to help in the marketing and advertising of another product.

And if this wasn’t enough, companies these days have an increasingly distorted image of what the concept of personal information implies and tend to consider information related to buying patterns, and spending habits, a part of a larger picture rather than the sensitive data that it actually is. Furthermore, businesses continue to collect information on users to the greatest level that they can, primarily because of this skewed notion. A deep-rooted failure within organizations to realize that less personal information doesn’t necessarily account for less data intelligence can have devastating consequences on users, and even on the enterprises as well.

Some of the most well-documented consequences of the over-collection of data from organizations include everything from financial fraud, identity theft, along with sophisticated phishing and pyramidal schemes. One such example of companies exploiting the trust that consumers put in them by agreeing to share their data, is when some of the most popular robo advisors were exposed for selling their customer’s data to their competitors.

What Does the Future of Data Privacy and Data Intelligence Look Like?

Up till this point, the future of data privacy, along with data intelligence might seem plagued with nothing but bleakness in the form of financial fraud and identity thefts. Although this could be the case if data regulations, internet data caps, and data collection policies were left unchecked, there is still a silver lining to look forward to.

If businesses were to self-reflect and change their approach with data collection, the future for data intelligence and data privacy might seem a lot brighter than it does now. For starters, enterprises could employ a “backward direction” approach, which dictates that businesses only collect the absolutely necessary amount of information from their consumers. Moreover, enterprises need to ensure that the data they’ve collected is specific for the purposes that they need it for, and doesn’t dive too deep into the personal details of an individual’s life.

In addition to being more specific with their data collection, enterprises need to play their part in fostering a greater level of trust with their consumers. Instead of making them feel like every aspect of their life is under constant scrutiny, make customers feel like they’re in complete control over their personal information, including who they choose to share it with.

Conclusion

We can only hope that we’ve made clear to our readers the importance of data privacy and protection, and how that ties in within enterprises in an era that is highly focused on data intelligence, machine learning, and AI.

Having said that, it is increasingly important that companies focus on newer methods for the collection of consumer information which avoid outright censorship of the Internet, and focus more on the greater trends and patterns within their industry, rather than concentrating their attention on scrutinizing the contents of a person’s life.