In exchange for many of the services we use, often for free, we have been living with the uncomfortable knowledge that big businesses are making money from our data. We have been mostly complicit because the services are often extremely useful, and the benefits are addictive. We have learned that the more we put in, the more we get back. However, society and governments have become alarmed about how much power the big technology companies now have, and the mood is changing.
The conversations around personal data between individuals and organisations will continue over the next decade and beyond as we strive to find a fair and equal exchange of value. While the introduction of governance around GDPR goes some way towards protecting an individual’s data, once the user has given consent, the ways in which a company can monetise that data are numerous and often invisible to users. In contrast to the binary opt-in or out choices of today, there’s a growing expectation of more dynamic control, allowing users to dial-up and down in real-time how much they are willing to share.
Thankfully, there are already products and services helping people liberate their data from the technology giants. For instance, Digi.me rounds up all of the information that companies have collected on us and hands it over to its customers for safekeeping. Digi.me does not collect or store the data itself but acts as a middleman between us and other apps that want to use our personal information. Other products help prevent personal data being captured in the first place. These consist of parasitic product hacks that can be added to mainstream consumer electronic products to ensure their users are not surreptitiously spied on in the background. These new devices either create false data or use a screen of white noise to protect our personal data.
Connected devices and infrastructures have now become the norm. In the past, we have been happy to pay a premium for ‘connectivity’; now we realise there are consequences from that constant flow of data. Ironically, just as technology has become sophisticated enough to ensure we can live hyper-connected lives, we are looking for ways to disconnect. People want to feel empowered and given the choice of whether or not they are connected. Paying a premium for ‘offline’ experiences will fast become the new ‘norm’.