How much privacy will you trade for convenience?
That was the question at the heart of Huge‘s “The Creep Line” event, held during Internet Week. The panel featured high-level thinkers on Internet privacy — and discussion of the varying degrees to which consumers, the government and corporations care about preserving it.
Jon Gibs, VP for analytics at the Dumbo agency, led the panel, and opened it up with an interesting point that would be reinforced throughout the conversation.
- When customers are surveyed, Gibs said, they say privacy and respect for their privacy are very important. However, when you look at the data, you find that customers don’t change their behavior at all based on privacy.
Target, for example, faced little cost in terms of customer behavior following its massive holiday-season data breach, Gibs said.
The panel consisted of Jerry Rocha, vice president of digital media at Nielsen; Zach Lanier, senior security researcher at Duo Security; Jason Davis, cofounder of Radico and Andrew Delamarter, director of search and inbound marketing at Huge.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the conversation, that even well informed technologists may find eye opening:
- Every keystroke. Radico’s Davis spent some time at Google and learned just how far the company has gone to capture as much data as it can. Every keystroke you type in Gmail is recorded and stored for later use.
- Sleepwalking in. A recurring theme throughout the talk was the gradual nature of increasing data collection, in such a way that no one notices just how much has been recorded until it’s too late. Lanier described it as sleepwalking, saying, “There’s really no need to talk about it because it’s kind of too late anyway.” Rocha referenced the devil’s bargain people have made — behavior data for convenience — as “a little sheeple’ly.”
- What is creepy? Davis defined creepy as that moment when you realize that companies know something about you and you can’t imagine how they know it. Either because your data has been shared or they’ve used some insight from a few data points to accurately guess it. Lanier said that what’s needed is for users to have more power over what they share with corporations and what they don’t. You may want to broadcast your breakup; you may not want to broadcast the movies you’ve been renting since the breakup, for example — as Rocha pointed out when he suggested that we may see a loosening of regulations on how cable and other media companies can use what they know.
- The devil you don’t know. Forget about what Facebook and Google are doing, Davis said. They at least have some accountability with you as consumer-facing companies that want you to like them. The truly creepy companies are the vast underworld of third-party data brokers and ad-tech operations you’ve never heard of. In fact, he said, if you took a look at all the third-party services watching how you read the average newspaper website, he said, you might be astounded. Nielsen’s Rocha agreed. An Internet service may launch only collecting the data it needs for its service, but then when they bring on a biz dev guy, it could get in the business of collecting much more — not because the service itself needs it, but because it can sell that user behavior information.
- A new sector? Huge’s Delamarter raised the question that it could be interesting to see if businesses are able to stand out by not collecting data. Davis pointed to Duck Duck Go as a success case here.
Will Internet companies be reined in on what they share and what they collect? Davis argued that the pressure won’t come from consumers themselves.
They just don’t care, by and large, even post-Snowden.
Gibs argued that it’s not about individuals anyway, it’s about vast pools of data. Delamarter countered, however, pointing out that if there’s an opportunity in the market it will be exploited one day. If a few different purchases from a few data brokers allow hackers to start putting “anonymized” data together into profiles of real individuals, a new Internet blackmailing vertical could be in the offing. If it isn’t already.
The only way anything is going to change, Lanier argued, is when something truly disgusting and scandalous happens and everyone starts talking about it.
View the entire conversation here:-30-