Poachers turned Gamekeepers

Much has been made in recent weeks about announcements from the tech and social media giants on their future plans to protect our privacy.  At the forefront, not surprisingly is Facebook, with Mark Zuckerberg’s high-profile statements about privacy, encryption and protecting personal data.

There are some very fundamental question marks over the approaches the companies have outlined.  Up until now they have been the poachers!  Building their organisations on the back of monetizing data – our data – and turning a blind eye to the use and abuse of that data.  We are now asked to believe they are working on protecting us and that they want to allay our fears and rebuild trust by adding privacy services to their offerings.  It’s a big ask. 

The new services are promising security, encrypted messaging, better management of privacy but, separating promise from hype is challenging.  It’s not acceptable to continue to mine user data but say ‘we won’t look’, or to encrypt user data and still to hold the keys. 

Pretty much everything suggested in the announcements so far still keeps the data and responsibility for it firmly in the hands of the organisations.  The poachers are now the gamekeepers! The only way out of this is for users to have control of how, when and in what circumstances their data can be used – if at all.  They need to be able to manage their digital privacy, their online persona and to choose what they share. 

To build trust and be seen as the gamekeepers, these companies will need to understand they are now in the ‘employ’ of the users.  It’s a big shift in how they operate.  Potentially, a very difficult one for them to pull off.  But users too, will need to play a greater part in looking out for their own digital persona and how their lives are tracked and recorded as the Internet of Things, mobility and ‘Smart’ everything follows them around.  It’s easier to turn over responsibility and to believe that companies like Facebook will look out for users but the credibility gap is widening.  Time to make sure users take back control.