Thursday, March 21, 2013

Concerning Privacy Concerns

I'm seeing many "data-learning" apps shy from speaking up about the data-collection portion of their application and how that affects user privacy. How much data are you collecting? Where is it all going?   It's intuitive: people like privacy and if you collect more data about them, they'll protest and leave. Right?

This isn't a post about privacy concerns.
Rather, it's a post about how we should be asking for more data.


Like Timely, these are the kinds of apps that gather data about you and process it to offer you some service, hence some value. To clarify, these are not apps that collect data they don't necessarily need (doesn't that remind you of spyware?). That's a big distinction that I think people conflate so often that in most people's minds, data collection = bad.

I believe that apps like Timely that can leverage more data to provide more value shouldn't fear.  Of course, it  needs to be a sufficient amount of value or people wouldn't risk their personal data to even use it.

The privacy status-quo is changing. Look at how people gave up their privacy for Facebook. Sure, there are privacy concerns about where our data is going and how people are using it, but overall, it seems that becoming more socially interconnected was worth the price. The common response now to privacy evangelists is "if you want to keep your data, don't use Facebook."

Leveraging more high-quality data spurs innovation. It unlocks doors. Big Data, though hyped, is real and it's powerful. From an application point of view, data is data is data. Higher quality data intelligently processed means more value, although this isn't always the case.

The problem for developers is that talking about how you want more user data isn't just eccentric, it's creepy by current social standards. So many app developers tiptoe around this by choosing not to talk about it or obfuscating the topic.

It's obvious  they  aren't following through with their convictions because they fear negative backlash. That's fair; people tend to be conservative with their personal data. But I'm curious.

What if they had followed through on this insight?

What's possible?

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