Privacy? We Don’t Really Care …

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I’m not joking. Most people don’t care about privacy. If they did, social media and a lot of other things in the digital world would be different. Actually, if people were as concerned about privacy as the pundits and many lawmakers want us to be, the digital economy would be in shambles. 

Because ‘our’ data are driving the economy. What we do, what we buy, what we own, what we say, where we go etc. And we’re fine with it, right? Because if we weren’t, we would have done something about it.

I had this discussion with someone the other day, and it did not go well. I got all the excuses – about Facebook, Google, TikTok and other platforms and services. How impossible it is to NOT be ‘there’ – on the platform(s) of choice. And – confronted with the obvious observation – ‘it’s still a choice, your choice’, the discussion abruptly ended.

A few days later, the subject came up in a new setting and followed a different path: Data and value. My peer was obsessed with the incredible value his data apparently had. ‘My data is driving the digital economy. I read all about it and I want my share.’ A message privacy pundits have repeated so loudly and so often the past few years that people are starting to believe it.

It’s untrue. Most of the data in question have zero value until someone is ‘investing in them’. Creating the services, building the infrastructure and much more. Actually, without these services, most of the data wouldn’t even exist. So who owns the data?

It’s an interesting and important question, and one that isn’t well understood. Not by the public (aka the ‘data owners’), not by the privacy pundits, not by the lawmakers behind GDPR and its likes in various parts of the world. Actually, most of the recent laws and regulations supposedly improving privacy, do the opposite. The lawmakers didn’t take the time (or didn’t have the capacity) to really understand the issues, so they ended up regulating fictitious problems, creating expensive regulatory regimes and taking attention away from the real ones.

If that sounds like a real mouthful to you, it’s because it is. And very frustrating. We really need to understand the issues, yet very few do. And the GDPRs of the world are in the way.

Needless to say, this is going to be a recurring subject on and in the Saturday Mindset newsletter in the coming months. Starting with Who Owns the Data this week.

Privacy and privacy protection was a challenge even before the digital revolution took off some 15 years ago. Admittedly, the world started to go digital long before that, but it was hardly a revolution. Early digital systems primarily improved upon existing regimes and processes, enabled them to scale far beyond what would otherwise have been possible. 

The real revolution started when going and being digital became a business in and of itself. Like Google or Amazon – using digital dataflow to create new business, services, opportunities, knowledge and a lot more. Think about it for a second. Amazon’s warehouses weren’t revolutionary but the dataflow between you and them was. Including the shipment tracking which no one had seen before. Very addictive.

An incredible 15 years it has been. Digital transformation changed the world in record time. Never ending, continuously evolving and accelerating (see also Invisible Disruptions Changing Your Life). Still, even in 2022, there are many organizations out there who missed the train entirely. Who are scrambling to understand what happened and what to do about it. 

Seriously, for most of them it’s too late. Conferences, events, classes – they’re not going to fix 7-10 years of ignorance. I’m even surprised that these events still exist, but they do – as discussed in Digital Transformation? Now? No way …

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