Big tech isn’t bad – it’s just bad

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In today’s society, labeling in a very strict way is mainstream. Things are good or bad, black or white, must have or never had. We are still moving away from the place where events, people or ideas can be seen as grey, evolving or just a product of their own making. We’re getting lost in the message, and we’re not making progress in the action.

Big tech is no exception. How often do you hear or read that great technology is evil? Increasingly, this message is being spread in the media, through government mouthpieces and in many different sectors. It is true that the privacy issues we face today were born from the processes and approaches developed by dominant tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Meta and Apple.

These companies, through their innovative approach, opened up the world of sharing and tracking in the name of progress. They found a way to use data to grow their businesses while creating a community of people sharing data with no questions asked. They helped us consumers get comfortable with sharing without helping us protect ourselves.

Is it bad? NO. Is it wrong? Yes, especially since research shows that access to everything that concerns us does not improve the business or consumer experience.


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Putting data back into people’s hands

Now that so many of us know the system is broken, it’s time to shift the narrative from good or bad to advocacy and action. We need to identify what can be done and who is best suited for it so that we can start making the change we so desperately need.

Here’s why: The people who created the problem won’t be the ones to fix it. Big tech – as the largest provider of consumer data – has become dependent on a business model where consumers pay nothing and are collected for all their data.

Users essentially become the product, driving consumer knowledge and influencing business decisions. Due to this deep level of integration, these players have no motivation or capacity to solve the problem they have created and benefited from.

Today, it’s up to consumers and emerging businesses to move away from relying on the collection of personal data and firmly put control of data back where it belongs, to the people.

Consumers are standing up and demanding control

Perhaps, like me, you are beginning to see changes in the choices you have when sharing information. From all-or-nothing cookie requests to companies removing guest shopping experiences, we’re driven forced elections everywhere. Have you ever shown up to an empty restaurant recently only to be asked for your phone number before being seated? This is happening.

Simply sharing your data and letting the consequences be what they will be may seem like the easiest way forward. But it does open us up to unsolicited communication, potential data breaches, and most importantly, undesirable influence.

There is a need to educate ourselves about the steps we can take to take control of big tech and start owning our identity again. It’s time to take a stand – with our wallets, our actions and our words – and reimagine how business is done.

We no longer know what the world looks like without the intervention of high technologies. We’ve gotten so used to sharing our data in daily microtransactions that we’re desensitized to it. Being aware of when our data is collected, why it is being collected and how it may or will be used in the future is an essential first step.

We then need to take action to restrict our data where it is collected. Whether that means changing your cookie settings, using VPNs and information masking apps, or taking steps to retroactively delete your data, it’s worth the effort. First of all, it stops big tech and other people from accessing our information.

Newly established companies are leading the way in terms of privacy

If consumers start to take a stand and the industry supports these actions with innovation, change is possible. It cannot be done alone or in a vacuum. We need to rally the next generation of startups to tackle the consumer mindset problem. One that understands the importance of centralized systems built around privacy – as opposed to privacy as an add-on.

From the start, leaders must determine how much customer data is really needed and explore alternatives to the collection, storage, and use of Personal Information (PII). In the process, they can develop products and site experiences that make it painless for consumers to store their personal information. Add regular privacy and security audits to your processes, ensuring that third-party vendors participate in privacy commitments.

That way we can start making big strides and then turn it into a policy. By creating and sharing a privacy policy written in plain language that emphasizes a reduced data footprint, emerging companies can begin to influence the business landscape and transform it into one where privacy is paramount.

People and emerging companies can work together

Gone are the days of reaping the benefits of mass data collection without the consumer’s consent. Now companies must adhere to higher standards of protecting consumer privacy, and consumers must hold businesses accountable.

We have the opportunity to redefine our relationship. We have the opportunity to build a world where trust is inherent and our interactions are reframed with consumer welfare, where we care for each other by being smarter – consumers, marketers, business owners, leaders.

The dynamic should be a partnership based on respect and agreement. Big tech is not bad if it wants to use consumer data to achieve its goals. However, this is an outdated and inconsistent solution that will require putting people before profits to remain relevant as consumers find their voice and emerging brands address the need to protect privacy.

Arjun Bhatnagar is the CEO of Cloaked.


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