Knowledge Is Power: It’s Time To Empower Users

Jul 10, 2019

Alexandra Matthews

The use and ‘abuse’ of user data by big tech companies regularly dominates headlines, despite their expression of explicit commitment to improving data privacy practices. The recent history of data exploitation in widely publicized scandals, such as Cambridge Analytica and the Google+ data leak, arouses ongoing suspicion about the monetary value of user data.

A couple of weeks ago, Washington took aim at antitrust in ‘Big Tech’ with the introduction of a bipartisan Senate Bill, the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD). DASHBOARD calls on Google, Facebook and other major Silicon Valley companies to effectively put a price on their users by disclosing how much each individual’s data is worth to their business. The proposed legislation states that tech platforms with over 100 million monthly users must make public the financial value of users’ data. 

Informing consumers about the value of their data is undoubtedly a positive move towards complete transparency in tech, and a service we already offer at Ogury as part of our Consent Manager. Yet, the need for the introduction of a Bill ultimately serves to highlight the lack of progression that’s been made to give users the control they deserve over data. 

The global response to data control

Questionable practices around the collection and use of consumer data has prompted a global outcry. In 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect, under which organizations are required to ensure EU citizens’ personal data is collected legally and protected from misuse and exploitation. And many companies have already fallen foul of the new data protection laws in Europe.

Stateside, in less than six months, California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) comes into force. Like GDPR, CCPA also aims to protect users’ personal data and regulate the collection and use of consumer data. An even bolder New York Privacy Act is also in the pipeline, which will enable any New York resident whose data is used by a company out of accordance of the terms of the bill, to file a lawsuit against that company. 

Consumer awareness is still too low 

However, while the current data privacy laws have gone some way towards giving users greater control over their data, our research shows they have not gone far enough. A recent Ogury survey of over 287,000 global consumers found that over half (55 percent) said they do not have a better understanding of how companies use their data following the introduction of the GDPR. What’s more, despite the widespread introduction of privacy notices to comply with GDPR, consumers are still exchanging information with organizations – often by forced opt-in – without being fully informed about what that company is doing with their data. Of respondents we spoke to, 52 percent said that even when they do read data consent notices, they still do not understand how their data is being used. 

GDPR sent a strong message to the tech industry that abuse of consumer data and lack of transparency around privacy practices would not be tolerated. But the findings of our research show it has not been taken seriously by the organizations it was designed to regulate. 

It’s vital that businesses deeply understand data privacy legislation, and by assigning a price to consumer data, it will help educate users about sharing information so they can make informed decisions. With the introduction of the CCPA and other upcoming legislation, consumer knowledge around the issue of data privacy will continue to grow, and as it does, companies with shady data practices will either be pressured into transparency or cease to exist.  

There’s every reason to be transparent 

It shouldn’t take an act of law to force organizations to be transparent. Big tech companies may believe they are benefiting by leveraging user data without explicit consent, but evidence shows that sooner or later this attitude will come back to bite them. 

Our research has found that there’s no need for tech companies to collect and share data without permission. The majority of consumers aren’t opposed to sharing information, they just want to be given a fair choice. In fact, 71 percent of respondents said they would be prepared to share data from their mobile apps and website usage, as well as contact details, as an alternative to paying for access to apps and online content.   

Learning from giant mistakes  

There’s no debating that tech companies should give users greater control over their data. The practice of underhand data deals has tainted the industry for too long. But culpable organizations can rectify their conduct by disclosing what each individual’s data is worth to their business so users can make educated decisions on whether or not to use their data currency. 

It’s only by offering full transparency that tech companies will be able to win back consumer confidence. At Ogury, it’s always been our aim to make the value exchange of providing data, in return for accessing a free service, as transparent as possible. In early 2019, we launched our game-changing feature, “Fair Choice”, which gives users the option of paying with their data to access quality content. 

Fair Choice was inspired by our belief that there should be an honest transaction between organizations and users when they opt to share their data. Our solution is GDPR and CCPA compliant and represents a new era of digital marketing. One in which publishers and brands build relationships with consumers based on trust and transparency, and users are fully empowered to make informed choices. 

To find out more, contact me at: Evan@ogury.co

Evan Rutchik, CRO, US