Data Privacy is a Problem, but so is Data Literacy
Innovation in the realm of the user, utility, and retail technology, in the last ten years, has been driven by the Smartphone. From the conventional days of elaborate, and often excruciating, software programmes, the world has now moved to app-based solutions. From social networking to sites to utility services like cab hailing, grocery ordering, and even arranging for a salon appointment, app-based solutions are now bridging the gap between technology and businesses. However, this comes at a cost. Clearly, looking back, the innovation comes across as unthinkable without the users investing their data. The likes of Facebook, Uber, Google, and many apps serving a local county or district request for a users’ data which includes their location, their contacts, and their media. This is where data literacy comes into play. The request for users’ data is hidden in an elaborate agreement. Users’, without much thought, accept this agreement, as the case has always been. With a single tap on the Smartphone by the user, enterprises and companies gain access to the most intimate user data. For tech enthusiasts, this access is the user paying for the service offered via their data, and thus fair. For instance, Facebook saw a significant part of its paper wealth wiped out after the case of Cambridge Analytica came in the open. However, to what extent was this third-party at fault? Garnering user information under the garb of personality quizzes, the likes of which were ‘who is your twin’, ‘who is going to murder you’, and so on, the company created a series of quizzes that appealed to a number of the users for their humour. The questions required users to put forward their basic information, grant access to their Facebook contacts and messages for the results to be seen, and thus, Cambridge Analytica managed to gain data from millions of users across the globe. The company was not violating user privacy, but banking on their gullibility. This is where the challenge of data literacy comes into play. Lawmakers across the world, including the European Union recently, are quick to blame the enterprises for any issue pertaining to data privacy or violation. While the likes of Facebook and Google have the major role to play when it comes to safeguarding user interests, they cannot facilitate data literacy for that shall constrain the very fuel that sustains their companies; data. Thus, the onus lies with the users, organisations, and even nations to educate their subjects when it comes to data literacy. In many cases, countries can find a way to work with the likes of Facebook and Uber to design better data privacy standards and policies. Users must realise the gravity of the data they share on Facebook. For instance, for a user willing to share their location with Uber every day must realise the benefits or consequences that come along. While the benefits may include faster access to a cab, the consequences shall also include the license of Uber to hike the pricing for the same service, citing a pattern of dependability at the user end. Data Literacy, in the coming years, shall be a necessity. Nations like India, which shall get a billion users online in the next decade, shall have to explore options to combat the issue of data literacy. In the United States and EU too, with increasing innovation in the realm of Smartphone tech with inculcation of apps based on augmented reality, the challenge for lawmakers will be to get users to understand the importance of data literacy. For the users, at the end of the day, data is a price they pay for availing services, connecting to fellow users online, and so on. The further objective, however, is to understand what is the right price to pay.