privacy

What would you do for a cookie?

blue-cookie-monster-girl-junel-photography-vintage-Favim.com-83019

 

It has been while since my last post so this story may feel a little old but a discussion last week made me reconsider the whys.

The story concerns Risa Puno giving away free (edible) cookies in return for personal and sensitive information at a Brooklyn Arts Festival.  380 New Yorkers were willing to give away their finger prints, partial social security numbers and have their photos taken without any explanation to what would happen with their information.  In fact if and when they did ask she would refer them to her terms of notice which was a page of small legalese giving her the right to share their information with third parties.

Isn’t this completely irrational?  OK the cookies looked pretty cool and probably tasted awesome but still it is completely illogical to give something so private away especially when it can be shared with anyone.  Do people lose all common sense and thought when it comes to a freebie?  The answer is obviously yes AND we all do it all the time and not just for a freebie but for convenience?  I don’t necessarily believe in mass irrational behavior though, having read Irving Goffman’s ‘Asylums’ he outlines how we take on roles to cope within our environment.  He describes these irrational rituals as institutionalization and quickly I began to see the rational within some of the odd habits you can see exhibited by patients within a medical institution.

On this basis I ask myself how we are conditioned or institutionalized to offer up some of our most personal information so easily and exhibit this irrational ritual nearly every day.

Last week at the TMRE conference I listened to Charles Duhigg talk about his book ‘The Power of Habit’.  I have read his book before but listening to him again reminded me of the cookie story.  To summarize, our habits are formed from cue’s and rewards.  Take the lab rat experiment conducted by Ann Graybiel. This is where a rat is placed in a T-shaped maze with the rat behind a barrier and chocolate at the end, when the barrier goes up there is a click and the rat finds the chocolate and then eats the chocolate.  The first time this happened it actually took him a long time to figure out where the chocolate was but as predicted each time he repeated the experiment he got faster and faster.  What became interesting were the measurements recorded of the rats brain activity during the experiments, at the beginning the brain activity showed high peaks right from the click of the barrier through to him eating the chocolate, but with each experiment the brain activity dropped between the click and the eating of the chocolate.  Over time the rat was literally able to follow the routine between the cue and reward without any brain activity – he had stopped thinking and acted on pure habit.

habit-loop

We do this all the time and I am sure you can remember a situation like arriving at work or home thinking ‘how did I get here’?- we literally switch off and go into a trance when something is routine enough, be it the gym, shopping or scarily the drive home.  Is this our institutionalization when it comes to giving our information away?  we are doing it every day, each time we go online, each time we purchase and each time we use our store cards, it has become so routine now that even cues and rewards aren’t necessary. This is such a bad habit that our lives can’t really function without doing it, we have agreed to these rituals to function effectively in our world.

Do you think it is rational or irrational to give your information away so freely?

 

 

 

 

Take back your privacy – Get Some Gusto

 ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

 

“In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?” Al Gore

I read an interesting article on research-live today about a YouGov study that indicates that over 30% of people in the UK have deleted apps on their phone due to worries that their information is being sold or over-used.

It makes me ask myself if Europe is ahead of the curve not only in individuals concerns over privacy but more importantly the movement to get consumers to take control of their data.  When researching online I find much more information coming from organisations like Mydex or Ctrl-Shift who are based in the UK; not to mention European data protection laws being the most stringent in the world.

I was at an entrepreneur event in North Carolina last week and was speaking to company who had developed a PIMS app (personal information management services).  This app acts like a broker for individuals who wish to sell their own personal information which is collected passively on their phone.  It also gives the individual the ability to decide what  information can and cannot be sold which would automatically adjust the overall value.  A very smart tool that gives the individual complete transparency, control and reward.  The problem is the chicken and the egg; do you build a crowd of people before you have clients to sell the data to, only to risk losing them because there is no one bidding for their data?  Or do you need the client investment first which is hard considering you don’t have anything to sell yet?

There needs to be more gusto from the consumer in order for this to be solved, and this requires education about our privacy and what is currently happening with our data.  With this knowledge will come the customer desire for change, as the customer changes so too does the industry.

This is where I see the UK, quite frankly, kicking some butt in terms of education and forward thinking.  If I am wrong and you are aware of more high profile agencies in the Americas I would love to hear about them.

 

.

Date us don’t stalk us: The power of community

I had an uplifting experience last week and it was driven by my community, The Beaches.

Thursday morning I was reading my Facebook page and saw a note asking ‘has anyone found the Bengal cat that is lost and has been having seizures’?  The answer was no and I remember thinking how sad that was.

But let me step back and give some background.  I am part of my local community on Facebook, ‘The Beaches-Toronto’ and every day there are snippets of good news stories, recommendations, requests for help or anything relating to events in our area.  It reinforces the village feel and allows good neighbours to be…well good neighbours.  There are some aspects that I don’t like such as people complaining or judging others which can quickly incite a moral high ground lynch mob.  For instance there is a guy who walks on the beach wearing a short sarong maybe no underpants – I am happily unsure; he has a guitar and asks groups of women if they would like to hear a song (I stress women and not young girls).  I have witnessed this and had a chuckle with my husband and moved on – to me it seemed pretty harmless.  However, there are those that feel that he puts the community in danger and some even questioning whether it was safe to bring their children to the beach if this man was lurking around.  I don’t like this kind of news, because there is usually little context and people often jump to assumptions that can do harm to an individual.  Ok so the guy may have bad dress sense and no one wants to see what is underneath a mans kilt on a lovely sunny day, but should he be annihilated on social media without all the facts? Anyway that aside, I love being part of this group, my community and part of daily life here.

So when I saw this note about a Bengal cat it touched me, I have two cats and remember how I felt when my Leonard went missing last year.  I was besides myself and there were plenty of tears but luckily he turned up in the garden later that night –  so maybe I overreacted just a little.  Anyway I got up to my usual routine and was on my way out the door to take my dog Pepe out for a walk and there in my driveway was an orange cat which reminded me about the lost cat.  I called my husband who told me he had seen a lost poster for the same missing cat down our road.  So off I ran to get the owners number.  Ten minutes later she arrived at our house to find her cat Moby in our bushes.  It turns out he had been lost for 6 days after suffering a seizure and running away in confusion, he was diabetic and had been without his meds all this time.

10157134_698287640233354_8484714779996403613_n

Colleen, Moby’s owner, was absolutely over the moon and the relief was obvious, I doubt she had slept much in the last few days and had resigned herself to the probability that he was not going to be found.  She thanked me in person and on the FB community page and everyone rejoiced in the finding of this cat and reinforced why they loved their community so much.  We take care of each other, and this happy ending would not have been possible without the wide net of the digital village.

So why am I talking about this on a blog which is about protecting our personal information?  It is because I believe that for organisations to fully tap into our behaviour and gain access to our information they should start with being part of our community and metaphorically speaking be a good neighbour.  We prefer to be flirted with and taken for dinner rather than have a secret admirer rifle through our trash.  Once we are sufficiently  wooed we will share our personal information with the advantage of trusting who we are sharing it with, organisations could then gain so much more from this two way relationship and gather far deeper insight into our habits. I would rather willingly give someone my address than have them follow me home!

PIMS – Tune In, Maybe Turn On and Probably Drop Out

I understand the concept of PIMS (Personal Information Management Services), I understand the benefits and partly because of this blog I am motivated to invest my time signing up to a few, after all it is something I have come to feel passionately about.   The question is will the majority of others feel the same?  Now that I have joined 5 different PIMS I Speed-Bump-Signs-80549-bahave some good reasons to think that people will at first tune in maybe turn on but probably drop out.

The Trade Off

Currently there is little effort on our part, others are managing our data for their benefit and we are generally unaware of it being aggregated, analysed and reported on.  There are a network of beacons and trackers that connect all our dots and our time remains intact, in fact it saves us time in bill payments and online searches.  But if you want to manage your own data all of sudden there is quite a bit of work to be done.  When I stored my basic information I had to hunt round looking for my social security, passport, house insurance, household bills, address history, car details, residency card etc.  It took me over an hour and from now on I need to maintain it and update it when necessary.  Then there are the PIMS I joined that are social platforms, these require sign up and several verifications which although simple have more steps than other established networks.  Others required downloading software, sign up and data entry too.

It doesn’t matter what type of PIMS you join, there is an education process that simply takes time; learning what the organisation does, how the system works, signing up and navigating the dashboards.  I think PIMS need to consider how much time a individual is going to give up because each of us will be weighing up our time vs risk or time vs benefit and currently I am still asking how this is making my life easier.

The Intangibles

I am not sure anyone has an emotional response to data management, it really isn’t a sexy subject unless it has government conspiracy stamped on it.  I am not sure that it has yet hit the public what it really means when companies use our data, it is still too intangible.  We can grasp the fraudulent sale of our data or identity theft but targeted marketing? others profiting? better decision making?  Even with the latest Facebook emotional experiment, there wasn’t a mass exodus of people incredulous at the manipulation of our emotional behaviour.  It is all too vague and we are still detached, think of it like white collar crime – when does it get the front page or the crime wave title that more tangible violent crime does.

What are PIMS?

Very few people have heard of PIMS or data management services, and those that I have joined so far do not make it easy.  I have watched a lot of YouTube videos, read a lot of PDF’s and used the help button several times figuring all of this out, others will not.  Companies are not setting themselves up as a service provider but more of a software provider and that is a huge challenge for a beginner.  I would have loved a service rep to give me a call and talk me through it all.  Better still a service where I can give my approval to an organisation who will then connect to other networks and pull my data for me; even provide me with reports, updates or offers. If these services are relying on word of mouth to gain awareness then there needs to be better benefits and more ease.

What’s in it for me?

So far, not much.  Time spent on searching and signing up to all these services? I would guess about 4 hours.  In return I can block companies tracking my online behaviour – in chrome only and I have a central database with all my basic details. But mostly it is still a promise of better things to come; reports on my online behaviour to help me make better decisions, a ‘respect’ button to ensure other sites that I log in to keep my data personal, additional applications in a central dashboard and finally potential to profit from my personal information.  This is all very good but it is still just a concept without enough tangible gain.  I hesitate to make a final judgement because the industry is still young, but it is important it is addressed early in order to engage and hold on to customers.

It’s complicated

When do we store our data, where do we store our data and how do we store our data?  All of these questions are tricky, not only to the individual but those seeking to store it for us, and it is not just our online data it is our offline activity too and it is very hard to keep track of.  With all these items or instances the data accumulates at a rapid pace and important items can get lost amongst the trivial, this requires ad hoc tidying and clerical archiving requiring certain skills and someones time.  How are these management services going to integrate all our data in a uniform interface with a structure that makes it easy for us to reference or query?

Are these the only issues? Please share your concerns or reasons for not trying a personal data service.

In this article I have referenced a great book called ‘Personal Information Management’ edited by William Jones and Jaime Teevan.  If you want to learn more it is a great resource!

5 reasons to care about your personal information – Thursday #4

884245-1684x947-[DesktopNexus_com]“I often worry that my idea of personhood is nostalgic, irrational, inaccurate” Zadie Smith

 

 

Personhood– do we lose a bit of dignity when our thoughts, words, actions, behaviours, mistakes and hopes can be accessed by unknown entities and used to communicate with us? Does it make us a product and not a person? Orwell’s 1984 used to give us the shivers but now we barely bat an eye at being monitored through CCTV, mobile and the Web.  And while we now have some respite from being monitored offline in our homes even that is becoming an opportunity for data collection. Recently it was announced that Dropcam had been purchased by Google’s Nest subsidiary, Dropcam sells in-home video monitoring with cameras having capabilities for night-vision, motion and sound sensing.  Nest has now revealed that they will begin sharing data with Google despite promises previously that it would protect personal data.  What would Orwell have made of this?

Managing my personal data makes me more comfortable with my feelings of personhood because I have some control – it just gives me that feeling of ‘win-win’ with organisations that I choose to share it with.