Privacy, as we know it, is dead. Society has changed so much over the past decades and, as the internet became more central in the lives of almost every person on the planet, privacy has become an impossibility.
Many are readily handing over their data by oversharing every little detail about their lives on social media. However, even without social media, most products online collect extensive amounts of data about their users.
A Growing Concern for Consumer Data Privacy
Recently, there have been discussions about a consumer’s right to privacy on the internet. Numerous corporations have already been caught collecting and misusing data without the permission nor knowledge of consumers.
For example, just a few years ago, Facebook was involved in a scandal wherein the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica was discovered to have gathered personally identifiable information of about 87 million people around the world. Cambridge Analytica and other companies were able to access the data of Facebook users because there are no adequate safeguards to protect the information that consumers entrust to the largest social media platform in the world.
Facebook was made to pay a $5 billion fine, the biggest ever fine demanded from a company over the violation of the consumer’s right to privacy.
All over the world, governments are creating regulations to protect the privacy of internet users. Companies such as Facebook are receiving widespread criticism on how they handle customer data.
Consumer Data Collection is Not New
Businesses, however, have been collecting data way before the internet. Nowadays, tracking is one of the major ways that marketers collect data. Before that, businesses have to manually note down the preferences of each customer to better supply their needs the next time they come back or to entice them to return.
A co-founder of Starbucks shared to Forbes that, back in the day, they wrote down the orders of every individual who enters their doors. That way, they can remember the preferred drink of repeat customers.
Consumer Data Protection
Consumer data collection has been and will likely be a necessity for businesses to improve their products and services. However, all businesses have a responsibility to ensure that the data collected from consumers are safe from individuals and groups with ill intentions.
Online, every e-commerce platform should have the appropriate tools to protect sensitive information, including financial details. Businesses should conduct network penetration testing regularly to identify vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to access customer data.
Businesses should also be transparent on how they collect data, what types of data are being collected, and how consumer data is being used. Nowadays, many brands are giving consumers the option to decide which details and information they are willing to submit.
Apps, for example, have to ask permission from the user to use certain features of a mobile device. Websites are now giving their audience the freedom to select the cookies that are enabled whenever they view content.
It requires increased engagement from consumers. The current mess surrounding the collection of user data and consumer privacy is a result of many complex factors, but the often vague and long terms and conditions that people have to agree with by checking a box at the end of the page is one of the culprits. No one has the time to sit down and read a novel-length contract, most of which contain terminologies or concepts that regular folks do not understand. As a result, they agree to the contract without fully understanding what they are giving up.
What American Consumers Think
American consumers are aware that their data is being collected by corporations. It has become such a regular part of life that around six out of 10 believe that it is not possible to not have their data collected.
Although businesses swear that the data collected is used to improve products and services, the majority of American consumers think that the potential risks outweigh the benefits, and they are concerned about the way their data is being used. Most of them do not feel that they have control over the data collected about them by businesses.
The concern over privacy among consumers should change the way businesses and marketers collect and use data. With regulations coming out of scandals over user privacy on the internet, likely, there will be a shift in how companies treat consumer data. However, regulations or not, businesses and marketers should treat consumer data with respect by protecting it and by being transparent. That way, the public can feel secure and assured that their privacy is not being exploited.