How much of your daily activities are currently being tracked? Even if you’re the paranoid type, suspecting every device and app you use of tracking your movements and online activities, you might still be underestimating how much of your data is being gathered and analyzed.
Every app on every device is probably tracking at least some information about you, whether you realize it or not. You might know that Google is keeping track of your search history and the websites you visit from search engine results pages (SERPs), but did you also know that it’s probably tracking your location at all times?
It’s a good time to be a data scientist. But the abundance and utility of consumer data has raised questions and concerns about how those data should be managed. Already, we’re seeing major changes to laws, regulations, and consumer attitudes to accommodate the modern landscape of data privacy.
So what does the future hold for data privacy? How could our expectations and legal requirements shift in the next decade?
Push Factors for Increased Data Privacy
Generally speaking, we’re seeing an increased push for greater data privacy in nearly all sectors.
There are several factors responsible for this push, including:
- Established industry. Data analytics are becoming a new norm. Most companies in the tech sector are collecting as much data as possible, whether it’s a core part of their products and services (as in Google collecting search data for advertisements) or whether it’s simply a way to make the product better (as in Netflix gathering data on video consumption habits).Businesses in all industries are leveraging data to put themselves at a competitive advantage. For example, even the smallest businesses are studying data patterns to optimize landing pages and increase conversion rates. Because data is rising in importance, abundance, and consumer awareness, it’s getting more attention.
Lawmakers have lagged behind, as this has been a novel industry for many years, but it’s time for the legal landscape to catch up.
- Low rates of consumer trust. General levels of consumer trust are about as low as they’ve ever been. Average people are inherently distrustful of the institutions and organizations that surround them. They don’t trust the media to deliver accurate reporting.They don’t trust politicians to tell them the truth. And they certainly don’t trust corporations to responsibly handle their personal data. Whether these trust issues are warranted is immaterial; the lack of trust is driving people to push for stricter regulations and better data privacy protections at every level.
- Data privacy violations and PR incidents. It doesn’t help that there have been some significant scandals and PR incidents related to consumer data over the past several years.It’s been revealed that some tech companies are gathering far more consumer data than they’re letting on – and that loopholes in some data privacy policies have allowed consumer data to be used in unexpected ways (such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal).
This adds to the distrust factor, but also pushes politicians to act; high-visibility incidents always spark a public outcry, which in turn puts pressure on lawmakers to respond.
- A new administration. In the United States, we’re entering a new era under the guidance of a new Presidential administration.President Biden has historically been in favor of stricter regulations related to data privacy, and Vice President Harris was very active in the privacy world during her time as Attorney General.
Of course, this administration won’t last the entire decade, so it remains to be seen what is in store for us in the next administration.
- International data privacy laws. All over the world, we’re seeing an influx of new laws designed to protect consumer data privacy, and especially in the European Union. Regulators are attempting to limit the kinds of data that companies can collect, force companies to disclose what types of information they collect, and give consumers the power to opt-out of certain types of data collection.These policies tend to have a kind of contagiousness about them; when one developed country passes a law, other developed countries consider passing a similar law in their own nations.
- General consumer demand. Overall, consumers are showcasing higher demand for products, services, and companies that respect consumer privacy. While most mainstream social media platforms are still growing in terms of sheer numbers, more people are turning to privacy-focused alternatives.Savvy entrepreneurs are starting to take note, giving consumers more of what they want by offering more transparency, specific products that favor data privacy, and other resources and services in line with this demand.
Most of these factors are primed to continue for many years, even a decade or longer, effectively building momentum for the data privacy movement.
Foundational Legislation in the United States
California recently passed a piece of legislation called Proposition 24, or Prop 24, which is designed to expand consumer privacy protections. Beginning in 2023, this law will afford residents of California a number of rights, including the right to:
- Understand who is collecting information, how the information will be used, and who will have access to this information.
- Control how personal information is used (to an extent).
- Have access to personal information, as well as the ability to modify, correct, delete, or transfer this information.
- Understand and exercise privacy rights through self-service.
- Understand and exercise privacy rights without retaliation or penalty.
- Keep companies accountable for failing to take adequate security measures.
- Personally benefit from businesses that use their personal information.
- Retain privacy interests as employees and independent contractors.
This state law will only apply to California residents. There is not currently a federal piece of legislation that affords people similar rights. However, many companies in the United States, hoping to serve all U.S. residents equally, will change their operations and provide these rights to everyone in the United States, regardless of where they reside.
This law could also inspire other states to take action, or spur the development of a federal-level law to formally provide data privacy protections to all U.S. consumers.
In line with this new wave of data privacy, and out of acknowledgment of consumer trust issues, we’ll also likely see greater transparency demonstrated by CEOs, marketing officers, and other high-visibility individuals within organizations.
Companies themselves will issue simpler, cleaner, and more obvious privacy policies, and will be practically forced to disclose more about their intentions – including secondary types of data they’re collecting.
Of course, complying with new laws and maintaining a transparent reputation can be too much for a single leader to handle. That’s why we’ll likely see the introduction of new corporate leadership.
For example, corporations may be interested in appointing a Data Privacy Officer, or a similar role, in charge of overseeing data privacy strategy.
Third-Party Evaluations and Insights
Finally, we could see the development of more robust third-party evaluations and insights. It’s not enough to trust that a corporation is respecting and maintaining your privacy; a third-party, neutral organization can verify it.
Organizations themselves will also rely on third parties not just for data analysis, but also for audits and internal investigations, leading to the rise of an entirely new industry.
It seems we’re positioned for a significant increase in the number and intensity of data privacy laws all over the world. This will likely be complemented by a shift in consumer attitudes and more responsible data privacy efforts on behalf of corporations everywhere.
There is an increase in businesses depending on third-party data to survive.
Complicating matters, we’ll also see an increase in the number of businesses depending on data to thrive and the amount of data collected by those businesses and third parties serving them.
Entrepreneurs may need to make major accommodations for these new rules to survive, and consumers will need to be mindful of the changing political, corporate, and economic landscapes as they make decisions and attempt to keep their data private and secure.
Image Credit: keira burton; pexels