Part one of this Privacy vs Efficiency segment touched on the struggle to maintain a level of customer privacy while achieving maximum technological efficiency. This segment will dive into the issues facing legislators.
What are the consumer’s data rights?
That’s the question that’s been being debated in Washington for the last few years. Surprise, surprise…they haven’t yet reached an answer. Although it may sound like a straight forward question, there are several angles to consider. First, think about all the other useful items in your life, aside from your smart phone, that make your life easier. Your credit card, for example, enables faster transactions without the hassle of managing cash or writing checks, but it creates a traceable record of your spending habits. By using that credit card you give up a small amount of anonymity for the added convenience it offers. Millions of consumers feel that the added efficiency of credit card transactions outweigh their lost privacy. This type of intrusion into someone’s privacy can be related to most general tool apps. Weather apps store past locations for easier access later, and the general public would agree that this intrusion is helpful and acceptable.
Legislators are more concerned about apps compiling location data and selling it then the simple act of saving the information. Supporters of the movement to reinforce consumer rights worry that apps that collect user information could sell it to advertisers to create detailed blueprints of a person’s life. This could include geographical maps of a person’s weekly routine, enabling advertisers to market you a brand of dish soap during the time you are usually at the store or a fast food chain on your commute home from work. Whether or not apps have the right to gather and use this information comes back to the debate of who owns this information. App companies feel they have access to the information the consumer freely gives to them for use of their app and what they do with it is their own concern. Consumer activists hold the stance that the public doesn’t realize what app companies are doing with their information and they would want to have a say in who gets the information. In short the issue boils down to this: does the data you generate performing tasks on a piece of software owned by some other entity belong to you or them?
As a consumer reading this your first instinct will probably be to say: My data belongs to me. If politicians rule in your favor and decide that all mobile data belongs to the consumer the impact might be larger then most consumers would suspect. This impact, especially the financial implications, will be discussed in the third segment of Privacy vs Efficiency.