Are You Being Controlled?

The way commercial and governing bodies handle individual privacy is heading towards a crisis point. Idea Couture foresight strategist, Maria Jeansson, with Pernilla Jonsson, Ph.D in Consumer Research and Marketing, discuss how we might begin to address it.

Over the past decade, new contenders have monetized individuals’ data in exchange for products and services. The vast majorities of consumers do not actively think about the consequences of these systems, nor fully understand how industries are exploiting their information.

The rules of the game are yet to be established. Because regulation and legal practices have not been formalized, young players have a strong competitive advantage and freedom in the way they gather and utilize individuals’ data. While many established businesses may be much more ruled by outdated processes and established infrastructures, new disruptors, which are formalizing transparent internal policies around consumer data, are building pioneer practices in this untouched territory. These new players are thriving on their data ownership advantages, which have enabled them to re-sell information without active consent from consumers. These recent imbalances in the market place have meant that the established businesses have struggled to keep up and safeguard their relevance in the marketplace.

These pioneer policies are already known and important to savvy consumers. It is likely that full disclosure might continue to be the way of the future, with companies using this information in order to give insight into their customers’ lifestyles, ultimately improving their services. In many ways, this added value: driven by a one-way bartering system, where the consumer data can be used without a transparent exchange system in place. The value of the individuals’ own data is grossly underestimated, giving way to systems that are a far cry from initial trusted networks.

These new connected worlds have caused a lot of fear and discourse around the negative potentials and their unknowns. Serious issues have been raised, such as: What are my rights as an individual in society? How might I regain and own my own digital footprint? Who will have the right to extract and use my data? What are the rewards of this type of data exchange?

These issues will need to be addressed and brought to the forefront, enabling us to start having debates about how far companies can go in benefitting from the exploitation and sale of individual privacy. Consumer obliviousness and blind trust is certain to shift as exposure as transparency continues to be demanded by the masses. 

In an ideal world, this power would be used for good. Even though it’s unlikely that this issue will be resolved quickly, companies ultimately might have to adhere to their customer demands. Individual players will not solve this issue—especially since more and more consumers continue to expect and demand their active consent.

Pernilla Jonsson holds a PhD in Consumer Research & Marketing at Handelshögskolan Göteborg. Previously, she was a partner and board member at Kairos Future in Stockholm. She is based in Stockholm, Sweden.

the author

Maria Jeansson