Privacy & data protection education doesn’t auger well for social media goliaths…

In the last 20 years ‘data’ has exploded. It’s gone from scarcity to abundance and today it’s easy to store and continues to accumulate exponentially. Businesses now use clever data analytic applications to improve their operations, knowledge of their customers, their products and services, and their positioning in the markets they focus on. Data has, of course, always been important in the business world. Indeed, businesses have closely guarded their data for decades, because if they didn’t competitors will put them out of business!

So, if businesses guard their data so closely, why haven’t many of us been so good at guarding our own on the internet and social media? Simple. Way back, we were attracted to the fact that email and social network services were free. At the time we either didn’t think about issues of privacy and protection, or we ignored them. In addition, the service providers didn’t make it very easy to understand how they would use the data gathered when we used our accounts.

Things have of course moved on. We’ve become less naïve, more circumspect and better aware of the darker and negative aspects of the internet and social media. Today we have a better understanding of the importance of online privacy, security and data protection, and politicians are more focused and adept at challenging the morals, ethics, and legal obligations of the goliath companies involved. The Badger, however, finds it quite sobering that debates raged ten years ago on whether user privacy, online security and data protection should be taught in UK schools (see here, for example), but it’s really the last three years or so in which the subject has gained momentum (see, for example, here, here and here). That’s very encouraging, but of course long overdue given that anyone born in the last twenty years has grown up with the internet and social media as core utilities in their life.

TechMarketView’s Richard Holway believes social media has reached a peak. The Badger agrees. Why? Because youngsters going through education today will be more knowledgeable about privacy and the value of their information. They are likely to be less fickle and more careful, and this surely doesn’t auger well for the social media giants. With regulation on the horizon, and ever more circumspect users, it’s hard not to conclude that the future for social media companies is less rosy than the past. Facebook’s just celebrated it’s 15th birthday. Impressive! But times they are a’changin…

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