Is Privacy for sale?

Privacy. What does it mean to you?

At its basic level, privacy is “the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby express themselves selectively”. Universal and understood across different cultures and boundaries, you would think that people’s privacy would be respected and upheld by those who hold information provided to them.

However, there has been recent scandals around privacy and personal information. Facebook were in the news recently about their “experiments” and how they manipulated news feeds to what expressions of emotions users saw. Other stories around personal privacy include the phone hacking scandal involving journalists and editors at the News of the World newspaper and lest we forget the Snowden revelations of NSA activities last year, which still has an impact to this very day. There are many more stories related to privacy concerns and how it’s handled, which could go on for a very long time, but where does privacy leave us?

Sure, you’re only as useful as the information that you choose to disclose on the internet, but what happens when those details are used in ways that make you feel uncomfortable? What about governments selling your tax data, for instance? In this day and age of big data within marketing, data is an ever-increasing asset – from CRM to manage and maintain customer relationships, to social data to provide insight and understanding of your customer’s motivations and preferences on a personal level. Data is all around us, and it isn’t going away soon…unless…

Forget about me, I don’t exist

Google have recently launched a service that enables EU residents to request that their details are removed from their search results. Now Google is the largest search engine compared to its rivals Yahoo! and Bing, meaning that there’s a likelihood you’re not going to appear in searches made by others. What is interesting is, will there come a point where more and more companies that handle data see this as an opportunity to cash in on an individual’s privacy? After all, we’re only as good as the information we give to these companies, so there has to be a trade-off, so in essence an individual’s demand for privacy depends on how much of themselves they supply online or elsewhere. If there is a market for privacy, who would be the main customers? The wealthy? The powerful? Regular people? How would companies charge? On a subscription basis? A one-off payment? Privacy credits? Will privacy cease to exist in the next two decades?

So many questions, but no one answer is black and white.

What are your thoughts?

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