Is Big Tech Prioritizing Profit Over Privacy?

Gam Dias

Is Big Tech Prioritizing Profit Over Privacy?

For any organization holding its customer’s personal data, GDPR and CCPA have upped the ante on Privacy. The big question for marketing and product leaders is ‘How can privacy be profitable?

Chasing the goal of profitability through privacy, I curated the Privacy Conference at Web Summit 2019. I attended sessions relevant to privacy seeking answers.

Big Technology and Privacy

Big Technology is racing to embed itself deeper into our lives and purchasing cycles. Google, Facebook, LinkedIN, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Alibaba, and Tencent have ambitious and sometimes invasive data acquisition strategies. Some of them have already stepped over the line with respect to privacy. When data acquisition and use can be harmless under careful governance and constrained to specific uses. Yet it is easy for a company to prioritize profit over privacy, which is where the problems begin.

Brittney Kaiser: Can anything be private any more?

Facebook’s Apps and Social Graph were a winning social media combination, yet as we discovered, they were also open to nefarious exploitation. Brittany Kaiser, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower speaking at Web Summit said, “I’m sorry to tell you but if you had a Facebook profile before April 2015, you can’t get your privacy back, that data has already been bought and sold and traded around the world, and there’s no way out of the millions of databases that it’s probably on that you’re getting it back.

Brittany Kaiser: Combating the weaponization of data

On how we de-weaponize data, she said, “Unfortunately, a lot of big tech companies like Facebook, are not making the most ethical decisions. So they’re going to need to be forced to by new laws, especially new election laws that make digital platforms fit for purpose ahead of elections to protect our democracies, and regulation as well. The next is technology solutions, so I really wish that Mark Zuckerberg would be investing more money and diverting more data scientists’ time into identifying weaponization of data online. So we should not be using discrimination tactics incitement of violence voter suppression, but unfortunately right now his new policies are allowing all those things happen.

She continued, “Now I think Jack Dorsey really made a heroic decision to say right now, all of the users on Twitter are not protected from disinformation and voter suppression. So while we figure out the technology fixes to these problems, it’s time to give it a pause in order to protect democracy. Now, Mark Zuckerberg has not come to the same conclusion and has decided that while we have no technology fixes to this, we’re going to let politicians run rampant and everything that they say is going to be considered newsworthy and therefore will not be blocked and I think that’s an incredibly dangerous because unfortunately I’ve seen how bad it can get when we’re not protected.

Technology companies are moving too fast for exhaustive diligence on the effects of their policies. They are unregulated with regard to truth in advertising and have additional pressure from investors pushing for growth and profit. In this environment they inadvertently or deliberately cause significant damage to democracy and human rights.

Back to Web Summit 2019 – The Privacy Track

Next Steps For Marketers

As a marketer, your job is to create and nurture product markets. Data has been incredibly effective in enabling this, yet without regulation has created paths to exploitation and bad actors. New regulations put a throttle on current customer acquisition practices and engagement models. Yet there is an opportunity right now to turn this constraint into competitive advantage. Here are 6 steps to move to a privacy-for-profit model.

First build trust

  1. Implement Governance: establish an actual operation model for governance that goes beyond compliance.
  2. Offer Transparency: ensure that your current customers gain transparency into how their data is used and the benefit they receive.
  3. Enable Control: give them some means of control, there are many third party solutions that could be leveraged.

Then find profit

  1. Determine Value Proposition: what are new propositions that can be created out of consent. What are the data products, what is the consumer offer?
  2. Create the Value Chain: what is the data value chain required to deliver a profitable business. How do we create a data mobility infrastructure and work with partners to create new value?
  3. Make it Scale: how can the profitability grow as that proposition scales? What are the business models and data value projections that will justify investment?

3 Points Digital’s Personal Data and Privacy practice will help you find the profit model in your privacy preparations. We provide interim Chief Data Officers and frameworks for Governance, Transparency and Control.

Web Summit Videos

Can anything be Private Anymore? Brittany Kaiser, David Chaum and Joseph Menn 

Combating the weaponization of data. Brittany Kaiser, Digital Asset Trade Association