2013: The rebirth of privacy?


As others have pointed out, 2013 may well go down as the year of Bitcoin, the first "mainstream" form of cryptocurrency. It's easy to dismiss Bitcoin as a fad, but other events from the previous year suggest that privacy is making a comeback.

Exhibit A: Temporary photo and message app Snapchat, arguably the breakout consumer product of the year. I personally think that the company's founders and investors erred by not accepting Facebook's purported $3 billion acquisition offer. Remember Google's $6 billion offer for Groupon? How'd that turn out for Andrew Mason et. al?

The death rebirth of privacy

It's evident that reports of privacy's death were greatly exaggerated. Sure, data storage has dropped by orders of magnitude over the past three decades. As a result, organizations can store every byte of information available to them – as well as purchase supplemental data from brokers and marketing firms like Acxiom. But just because they can doesn't mean they should.

Perhaps more and more Millennials are waking up to the fact that their publicly available college hijinks are impairing their prospects for gainful employment. Facebook growth and "engagement" numbers are down, although the law of large numbers suggests that the former was inevitable. Maybe Facebook just isn't cool anymore? Interestingly, Zuck is on record saying that, rather than being "cool," he'd prefer that Facebook would ideally function "like electricity."

Generally speaking, electricity really isn't cool.

Brass tacks: The events of 2013 suggest that the privacy pendulum is swinging back to "yeah, it kind of matters." No longer can a company flout that it knows everything about you with impunity, à la Google. Maybe consumers and citizens don't want all of their data to be permanent.

Simon says

More than ever, organizations will need to manage the tension between their legitimate need to track customer and user behavior and privacy concerns. This begs the question, How? There's no simple answer, but transparency is rarely a bad stratagem.


What say you?


About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recently Analytics: The Agile Way. His ninth will be Slack For Dummies (April, 2020, Wiley) He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, analytics, and technology. His contributions have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. He teaches information systems and analytics at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

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