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[GreenBook Big Ideas Series] Monsters Hunting For Your Data – Is This Reality?

11 May 2018

In the digital world, every company tries to collect more and more data about you, not only Facebook. Ordinary users are quite aware that by sharing information about themselves, their political or religious views, and brand preferences on a social network, they “give” their profile to all in this world. Facebook was just a social network for communication, loved by millions until it was “helped” to turn into a weapon pointed at the users themselves.

“Pure” technologies working towards digitization and automation are being presented as monsters hunting for your private data. It’s not only about Mark Zuckerberg’s company.

Who is Next?

In terms of the volume and depth of data, the market research industry is ahead of Facebook. Automation gives us the power. Nonconscious and Artificial Intelligence gives us even more power. We can measure real consumer reactions now. Soon we will be able to literally read consumer minds. Combining data from multiple data sources with survey and nonconscious data allows us to predict customer needs faster and more accurately than ever before. Yes, research professionals collect personal data, but it’s not a monster on the hunt.

If data from consumers helps us to see what consumers want, the lack of such data will make us blind.

Who wants to be thrown back into the Stone Age?

Collecting Data for the Good of Mankind, Not the Bad

In order to get intelligent insights, you have to dig out things they would rather prefer to conceal than to reveal. In any case, trends are pushing you to “get inside their heads”.

Humans don’t have an access to their own deep mental processes – they are hidden from their conscious. That’s why people often can’t properly explain reasons for their recent behavior. Implicit research methods are designed to identify “real responses” – the hidden truth that people are not conscious of. Thus, in order to get right insights, we should measure explicit and implicit responses together.

Misunderstanding Breeds Fear

There are two more factors we need to consider:

1. The consumers’ fears.
People want more control over the usage of their data (GDPR emerged as the response to this demand). Still, they remain open to sharing their personal data. However, only if they understand that it will help to improve their quality of life. But people are driven by the press, the media, and publicity. And if a negative perception is created (the way it is currently happening with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica), they could rapidly change their minds.

2. Clumsy regulation
Reading consumers’ minds and predicting their choices sound brilliant for marketing but could be scary for politicians. Some of them would like to have a monopoly on using these technologies.

The level of tech background amongst politicians is very weak. Some might be good lawyers (20 years ago), but they couldn’t understand how the Internet and data science works. Mark Zuckerberg’s hearings in front of Congress clearly show this.

What kind of regulation will we have? Will it happen in the proper way or become the next regulation blocker for technical progress? For example, blockchain technology is fundamentally incompatible with GDPR. It means that thousands of companies will automatically become the victim of these new rules because they already use blockchain principles in their work.

Don’t Be a Passive Observer

We must struggle not only for our personal rights, but also for the rights of the insights industry.

Even if ‘monsters’ exist, it’s not blockchain or unconscious research technologies. The government bans things that it can not control or understand. In fact, these technologies are the powers that can protect us from data-hunters. The GDPR method of regulation in its current version will not provide either security or privacy. We should discuss it and invite IT professionals into our dialogue.

Great power demands great responsibility. However, prohibition cannot stop progress, but instead always creates additional barriers. To prevent closing ourselves off from the future, let’s improve technology instead of thoughtlessly limit them.

Written by Dmitry Gaiduk, CEO at CoolTool

[Originally posted at greenbookblog.org as part of Big Ideas series]

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