Q&A: What You Need to Know About the Data You Share

Q&A: What You Need to Know About the Data You Share

Some argue that we’ve entered the post privacy era. Data is coming at us from all directions, often triggered by data we reveal about ourselves on social networks and via the Internet of Things. ThirdCertainty, a privacy and security news site sponsored by CyberScout, got an industry perspective from Jules Polonetsky, executive director of the Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank whose sponsors include Google, Acxiom and Bank of America.

Q: How would you frame where we are with privacy?
A: Clearly, we’re in a world where more data than ever is being collected. We leave data behind on social networks; I’ve got a smart watch, I’ve got a Fitbit. I am radiating data as we speak. How is all this data going to be used? Is it going to be used for my benefit? Is my Fitbit going to remind me when to exercise? Or is this data going to help me be smarter about what to buy? Or is government or [are] companies going to use this data to better track or market to me, or to know me better than I know myself in ways that could maybe be used to discriminate against me?

Q: So what we know is that this data is being generated and is being collected?
A: We know that there are lots of companies innovating for new products and services. We also know that government is keeping an eye on what we’re up to. Credit agencies and others are making decisions about what to do with us. Data itself isn’t good or bad. The question is, What are the ethics of how we use data? Will it make us more powerful about our environment or are we going to be shaped and hemmed in by our environment?

Q: So, how do we go about addressing these questions? What roles do you and I as individuals have?
A: Just about everyone today needs to be an expert, because if you’re not, you’re clearly at the mercy of everyone else who has data about you. Understand how your phone works—and how marketing works. You’ve got to take the bull by the horns and use data in a smart and effective way.

Q: What about the companies that are collecting these data; what burden should they have?
A: Most of them are trying to make us love their products, they want us to spend time reading their news stories, clicking on their ads. The question is, Are they doing things that are discriminatory? Or are they treating different kinds of people differently? We need transparency.

This article originally appeared on