Where do the Barriers lie Between privacy and Technology?
By Alex 13-07-2020
Since the 1950s we’ve gradually moved further and further into a world dominated by technology, whether it be in the home or how we communicate and travel. Every aspect of our day to day lives have been affected in some way by the development of new innovations that question our existing practices. Each generation has adjusted their usual way of life at some point to keep up to date and retain their appearance of relevance to the modern world. If we look back to the time of the 1950s where modernism swept America and said goodbye to austerity, no more was it clearer than in the home. With the post-war aspirational looking to reflect their sense of optimism, technology played an important role in bringing new products into the kitchen that embodied these new values. Whilst we may now look back at that era and not regard the technology that emerged as groundbreaking or revolutionary, to a generation that grew up without a home filled with consumer electronic goods, for some it took time to adjust to a new way of domestic living whilst for many others it inspired them to reflect a new set of values that become associated with being an American citizen at the time.
The pressure of ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ as it was coined at the time lifted the American economy and pushed living standards up dramatically across urban areas. The rise of consumerism also brought the introduction of advertising across television, providing a means of directly influencing the habits of consumers from within their home. Whilst this tied well with the aspirations of the people at the time, it did represent a shift in how products and brands were communicated to consumers, removing the sense of control and choice.
As technology has developed in modern times and continued to innovate in finding solutions to other needs and problems, it has dramatically improved so many aspects of how we go about our lives. The impact upon healthcare alone has seen life expectancy rise dramatically from the average age of 68 in 1950 to 78 in 2005. There have however been some consequences in the rise of certain areas of technology that have come to dominate our lives. The role of technology in how we communicate with one another has in recent years undergone a mini revolution of its own, with the dominance of smart phones and the mobile generation no longer just turning to texting to keep in contact but relying on what seem an endless list of apps and social networks that connect us together at the push of a button. This availability surely does come at a cost though, as after all they operate within a commercial business framework. With the majority of social network channels not asking the end-user to delve into their pockets in return for using their services how are they operating as a business?
Facebook alone now has in the region of 1.19 billion regular monthly users (as recorded on the 30th September 2013) who don’t directly financially contribute to their use of the service, but arguably get something very valuable in return. As many will know as users continue to share information with others across their own online networks, the data captured becomes a valuable customer insight. Every time an update is added or a new interest is noted, you may notice how the adds across the site begin to align their offering to suit your own details stated. The correlation between the user’s personality and the adverts directed towards them is what holds value to the company, utilising the huge amount of accessible data from users to provide marketers the opportunity to directly engage with specific consumers.
To give a further insight into the financial value of advertising to Facebook, the revenue generated direct from marketing within the website during the third quarter of 2013 stood at $1.80 billion, a 66% increase from the same period last year. That equates on average to around $1.53 of value for each regular monthly user and which continues to grow year on year. When looking at the US and Canada, a region that has seen the most significant jump when compared to the previous quarter, the value per user now lies at $4.19.
information above taken from Facebook Investment Data
With a year on year increase in users signing up to Facebook, does this mean people have come to accept that in return for using the services of companies such as Facebook, access to their data is a good deal? Are people fully aware of the extent to which their personal information is utilised within social networks in this way? Research published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication in 2009 set out to explore this further, concluding that:
“Users are unaware of or unconcerned about temporal boundary intrusions—threats to privacy due to data persistence—as described similarly in Tufekci (2008). This is a typical instance of a simultaneously unintended and uncomprehended consequence of human action in complex socio-technical contexts. Due to their black-box nature, computer systems invite this deceptive perception (Johnson, 1997), and the move from predominantly technical interfaces of desktop computers and Web 1.0 to increasingly social interfaces of networked, user-oriented Web 2.0 systems has further obscured the complex processes and interactions underneath the surface—the invisible part of the iceberg.”
The role of social networking sites has evidently brought many positives in terms of how we communicate and engage with others as well as how we share information with others at the tap of a button, freeing many from the burdens of their geographical position to openly engage within their wider communities. Whether people feel and appreciate the significance of granting access to their personal information in exchange for using such services is something that may need further consideration in the future and require a rethink by the end-user. Technology will no doubt continue to innovate and find new solutions to tackle problems we’re not even yet aware of, however where the position lies in funding them may prove to be an interesting area to understand further from a customer point of view.