Is Payment Not Privacy The Answer?

“There’s big money in your personal data—for others. Why not you? It’s your data, after all.

If you were paid for the use of the digital data you generate—that is, you shared directly in the benefits that draw corporations to this juicy financial frontier—would privacy be an issue?”

How would your clients or customers respond to this income-generating perspective on who benefits from the data they create through their social media interaction and digital transactions?

If your business or practice stresses a strong client-centric mission—like “our clients come first”—is it ethical to use client data to earn profit without respecting clients’ role in its creation and sharing a “piece of the action” with them? Their share could be income or reduction of service fees, interest rates, or other valued service factors.

Sharing All But Profit

The “everyone else does it” argument for cutting data-creating clients out of sharing data-based profits may be wearing thin for these client users, especially as they bear the brunt of data-related risk:

  • Facebook (FB) has granted access or shared FB users’ data with Amazon, Netflicks, and others, but what did FB users get out of this business exchange? FB users were not asked for their permission to allow FB to earn money or engage in business relationships like these with corporations and who knows who else. When social media corporations like FB insist they “do not sell but share” user data, this still means they make money, but consumers do not and consumers may have their privacy jeopardized in the process.
  • The “free” online features and services that initially dazzled users have become compromised and degraded by practices centered on corporate goals and profit, not value for data-generating users.
  • Efforts to manipulate users to spend more time on social media platforms are directed at increasing value to advertisers and at generating revenue, not at client goals. For instance, when user viewing drops, FB sends out intrusive updates designed to entice engagement.
  • Privacy breaches and identity theft are becoming the norm. Will the ease of online shopping and communicating become overshadowed by data vulnerability, hacker devastation, and lack of compensation for data violation?
  • The big data bite comes from Artificial Intelligence (AI), which uses massive data banks of user information and digital activity to generate savings, efficiencies, revenue opportunities, share price increases, clout increases, and service provision for corporate benefit. Haven’t users earned a piece of the action?
  • Technology makes creating and tracking micro-transactions very doable. The degree of detail possible to collect and categorize data could make tracking each transaction in a shared-benefits arrangement straightforward. That’s blockchain. This means that attributing a reasonable percentage to the user who created the date is practical. Repeat use of the data would create a stream of income for users. Will sharing become the new brand loyalty strategy?

For Clarity: Don’t confuse this suggestion of payment with loyalty-reward-point programs which concentrate on gaining repeat business for the corporation—a grocery store, credit card, airline…. Consumers often pay higher prices and are limited to specific spending patterns to gain benefits—not dollar-for-dollar by a long stretch. This involves consumers spending and then jumping through hoops to receive benefits with earned-reward points they must keep track of to manage expiry dates.

New Client-Retention Frontier

Online users realize that the continuous treasure trove of data arises from every digital thing we do each day, each hour. It’s making corporations richer and more powerful. Online users are only now understanding that all their data adds up to big money for others, not for them. Corporate spokespeople—from FB’s Zuckerberg on down—talk about the importance of user privacy, but do not give privacy or respect for users priority over profiting from users’ personal data—considered the juicy corporate profit-center.

Privacy laws are emerging, but they offer too little advance protection for users. Penalties may be as ineffective as license-to-pollute fines levied against environmental violators. The 2018 EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) [ https://eugdpr.org/ ], California’s 2020 privacy law, and emerging regulations are one approach to protecting privacy, but most, if not all,  protection provided occurs after the fact: after sharing, breach, misuse….

Missed Opportunity?

Do your clients or customers understand exactly where you and your organization stand regarding respect of client privacy and full disclosure of benefits gained from using their data, perhaps without preserving privacy?

Is this a new client-retention frontier for earning valuable client trust?

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