There is a seemingly infinite amount of information about us out in the open online; everything from our age and address to our likes & dislikes all mapped out across social media and e-commerce sites. But are we really aware of what is known about us? Or is our privacy a necessary sacrifice we have to make in order to reap the benefits of our connected world?
Perhaps that is the reality – we happily give out our personal information in order to gain some sort of value for doing so. That value doesn’t necessarily have to be financial. In the context of social media, we put details about ourselves into the public domain for our friends to see. If you were to ask someone why they put their relationship status or work place on Facebook, I bet they are unlikely to really know why they do it. But perhaps it’s a case of the more we put in, the more we get out. If we were to leave out certain details about ourselves, or even abstain from being on social media entirely, we’d be out of the loop and subsequently miss birthdays, parties and generally be in the dark about what our mates are up to. Similarly, we’re happy to give our address, DOB and mother’s maiden name when signing up to the next must have music streaming service.
But where do we draw the line? Is the prospect of our smartphones knowing what we need to get from the supermarket before we do, cool, or creepy? We definitely have to ‘buy-in’ to such services, but will we care less about our privacy as technology continues to advance?
Hardly anyone can genuinely say they have read the reams of T&Cs that we are presented with when signing up to something new online. We must just decide that the reward of accepting them – having access to whatever it is we are signing up for – is greater than the risk.
You only have to look at the ‘digital natives’ – those who have been born in to a world of social media, smartphones and TV on demand to see that they seem to be far less wary about giving away personal information. Not being online is just not an option for certain age groups. Anecdotally, it is the ‘digital immigrants’ – those who are trying to get there head around it all – who are more conscious about their personal information being ‘out there.’ Having said that, even my 84 year old Grandma is now on Facebook…
From a brand’s perspective, it’s important to convey true value and make user experience as smooth as possible to justify the taking of personal information from customers. Think about apps like Nike ID. By using it we are, in reality, sharing data about what time we are out of the house and where we are going. Which in reality is a bit unnerving. But we don’t mind because it is a fun and engaging app. Equally customers are highly unlikely to want to purchase anything from a shady-looking site.
The reality is that if you want to buy things at a click of a button, or stay in the loop about stuff on social media, then you need to be on the internet – and that largely means giving away personal information. A no-brainer for many; but for some still a daunting prospect…
What remains to be seen is whether we will become more and more desensitised to giving away information about ourselves as technology progresses.