By: Cortland J. Fondon
Big data has a big future, but it also struggles with trust due to a lack of transparency. With so much information being collected, it can be easy to lose sight of what is actually being collected and why that collection is necessary. Somewhere in between the people who think their data isn’t being stored at all and the people who believe everything they do is tracked, there are people who understand that big data is valuable, but can also be risky. They want to know more about the information they provide and how that information is being used in automated advertising and related types of campaigns.
It’s an understandable concern. At times, it seems like nothing is private anymore, and there are too many people who don’t take the collection of their data seriously. The programmatic advertising that companies use and the retargeting of people as their browsing and data storage habits change can seem downright eerie at times. Searching for something online and then seeing a targeted ad for it minutes later on a social media site can make it seem like everyone is being watched. Whether it’s helpful or uncomfortable depends on who’s asked the question – and sometimes what they searched for.
The main concern for most people, though, is what type of data companies are collecting, how they are storing that data, and what they are using it for. More transparency in these areas is needed, in order to keep people feeling safe. Additionally, more control over what data is collected is becoming very important to a number of consumers. Not everyone wants their data collected, even if it might help provide more targeted advertising to them. Some people value their privacy, but they also want to be able to use social media, search engines, and other online services.
Right now, they generally have to choose whether they want to give up that privacy, or whether they would prefer not to use the service they’re considering. There does not seem to be much middle ground, because data will be collected from them and they aren’t sure what that data will be or what will become of it once it has been collected. That can be a scary proposition for people who value their privacy. For companies that collect information, though, it is possible to make big data more transparent.
There are two main ways to do that: by giving people information about what is collected, and by letting them opt out of some or all of that collection. Everyone who gives their data to a company online should know why the company wants the data, and what is being done with it. They should also be able to say that they do not want their data collected or used. Companies that are transparent about what they collect, and that offer people the chance to opt out of that collection, will be more likely to build trust with consumers.
Data brokers want people’s information, because it helps them analyze trends and learn about their audience, but people are getting tired of having their lives bought and sold through their online activities. For many people, not using the internet at all, ever, is not realistic, so companies need to be more open about what they are collecting from people who spend a lot of their lives online. Companies that get too personal generally aren’t appreciated by consumers, because of the intrusive nature of the data that is collected. With transparency based on collected data, and how that data is used, businesses and consumers could have a better relationship.