5 things you (probably) don't know about online privacy – but should

WhatsApp and Facebook messenger icons are seen on an iPhone in Manchester , Britain March 27, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble - RTX32Y11

When it comes to your data, you might not know what you don't know Image: REUTERS/Phil Noble

Claudio Cocorocchia
Platform Curator, Shaping the Future of Media, Information and Entertainment, World Economic Forum Geneva
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Increasingly connected modern lifestyles have brought us real tangible benefits, such as convenience and more information about ourselves than we know what to do with.

However, this has also changed our view on privacy, and according to the World Economic Forum, it has impacted many people’s trust in the organizations and tools behind the numerous apps and devices we regularly engage with.

The Forum has created The Valuing Personal Data Framework, which outlines the different elements of our digital personal data and how they are connected. This framework was the basis for research conducted on a large sample of individuals representing the global online population, which generated fascinating insights.

Below is a collection of some of these.

1. You may not know what you don’t know

Understanding the basic concepts surrounding personal data is the first step in grasping the true value of your connected activity, and recent work from the Forum has concluded that there is a significant lack in understanding of fundamental concepts, such as one’s online presence and derived data across the general online population.

Click for full infographic

2. It is likely you are implicitly and/or reluctantly consenting

Unsurprisingly, the majority (two-thirds) of the digitally connected population would rather have no personalization of their online experience or be anonymous; yet, we continually consent (many times unknowingly), to more and more specific and individual targeting, in order to access and use platforms and services that have become important in our lives.

Click for full infographic

3. You don’t have the level of control that you should have

Close to half of the general online population has either stopped or not even started using a technology, digital platform or service because they felt it did not provide adequate control over their personal data and privacy.

Click for full infographic

4. If you are clueless about most terms and conditions of use, you are not alone

What’s perhaps most fascinating about the results of this work from the Forum is that use of our personal data for commercial purposes, e.g., sharing to third parties or targeted advertising, is almost as much of a point of tension as criminal data breaches that use our data for malevolent purposes.

Yet, most terms and conditions of use for technology or digital services give organizations full rights to use our personal data for commercial purposes without needing to inform people on the details of this use, or ask them for explicit approval before each use.

Click for full infographic

5. Paying for free stuff with your privacy may actually be a bad deal

Most online users surveyed by the Forum’s project feel that their personal data has monetary value, but at the same time, less than one third-feel that that they currently receive fair value back from the free platforms and services they use.

As an example, to use many social and professional networking apps on smartphones, users must allow access to their personal contacts information, which only 5% of those surveyed are willing to trade for free use of services.

Click for full infographic

So, who should care and why?

If you use any form of digital social or professional networking, a lifestyle application, or even just casually browse for information online, then you should care. Your online activity and behaviour contributes to the enormous amount of personal data being collected about you every day.

Understanding what you don’t know is the first step to regaining control over your personal data and privacy.

Becoming a more finicky end-user by choosing which platform or technology to trust your data with will stimulate industry to better self-regulate, so providing more transparency and control for individuals over their personal data.

Businesses, brands, and other organizations should also care about what these infographics tell them because people’s trust and confidence in them are at risk.

And it is not getting any better – by not doing anything to remedy these five issues, organizations are neglecting their customers’ concerns, which can only be damaging in the longer-term.

This article is part of a series of posts from the second phase of the Shaping the Future Implications of Digital Media for Society project. Explore content and findings from the project’s first phase in the report Digital Media and Society: Implications in a Hyperconnected Era

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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