I am writing this article to understand the data ownership issue, in layman’s terms. Especially in today’s times, it is very important to understand how important our data is. Whenever we see the autofill option while filling in the details or permission of features like GPS location, contacts, microphone, camera, etc., we tend to save time and proceed with few clicks.
Here is a simple case study of why we should be a little more careful while doing so. I vividly remember the time when I installed an application on my phone. It had the basic functionality of telling the “caller identity” (Name, Location, etc.). It was nice — even before the first ring rang completely the caller details used to appear right on my screen.
When they started in the very first place how could they tell the caller details if they didn’t have them? They are not magicians (if there does exist one).
The company made the app “free”, but you need to give them your details first for the other person’s detail. Fair enough, I entered my details. Then I got the popup, “give permission of your contact”, also. Oops, all the contacts, “YES”. I had a couple of hundred contacts saved on my mobile. And didn’t bother to check who was on the list.
I gave the app permission to read all my contacts. They can even read new contacts I might add in the future. So elegant for the company. My contact list had professors from my college, teachers from my schools, my old and new friends, parents, etc.
After acquiring data for some time, till the time they realised that they have stored significant numbers, they decide to sell it back. The app came up with a basic plan where you pay a “basic fee” per year to get the caller details. WHAT? I will have to pay for the info which we all shared?
They also knew people would ask them to hide their details if they came up with such a paid plan. So, they didn’t stop there. They also have a premium plan which is more expensive than the basic plan. If you buy it, they won’t show your details to the other customers.
Wait a minute now. Do I have to pay to hide my details? Then what did you mean by the “app is free”. Oh, only the uploading of details was free. To view the details, you will have to pay. And you will have to pay even more to hide it.
What are the other ways by which the company can monetise this data?
Few simple hypotheses. People whom you call more frequently are close to you. They know their name and other details.
When their birthday comes, you will get an advertisement/suggestion to gift a “notebook”, but you were planning to gift a “book”. Because of the link, purchase the notebook was convenient. You ended up gifting the notebook. You didn’t even realise your plan had changed. Your close friend who loves reading books ended up getting a “notebook”.
What could be the way forward?
I should be able to have control of my data. Whenever I want to delete it from the company’s database, I should be able to do it with as little effort as possible. Basically, the app/company should not make the data deletion process complicated.
Secondly, If I see someone’s else’s data flying around, as a social norm, I should have the provision to notify the appropriate person about the same.
In short, “The data belongs to the customer, period!”