Last month I wrote about the collection of personal information by business and government and compared the loss of privacy to George Orwell’s predictions for 1984 (see “Living as far from 1984 as Orwell”). Barely had I written the post and the news of the PRISM leak hit the news.
Some months ago I predicted in the media that there would be a major breach of trust in 2013 (for an example of the coverage see “Cyber security, cloud top disruptive tech trends”). When I made those comments I wasn’t willing to predict what that event might be, but certainly the controversy around PRISM is causing many people to ask whether their personal activities are being tracked.
I am not buying into the debate on whether the US PRISM program is legitimate or desirable. I do, however, argue that any activity that involves personal information and which comes as a surprise to the owners will naturally risk a backlash. This is as true of individual businesses as it is of governments.
Combined with online fraud and hacking, there are signs that the general public is starting to lose confidence in the technology that they have embraced so enthusiastically.
Although people lose confidence in technology (and the ICT industry as a whole), they still want the convenience of the products that they have learnt to use. Whether it is location services, digital media or social media, people value these additions to their lives. When I originally spoke to the media about the potential loss of trust in 2013 I also predicted that any short-term concerns would be alleviated as the general public turned to brands they trusted.
The role of these brands is not just to stand as a beacon of trust, rather they have an opportunity to clearly establish the terms of service and provide an extra layer of security and managed privacy. Ultimately these trusted brands can negotiate agreements across the ICT industry and government to use common personally controlled records (as I’ve written abot previously in articles such as “You should own your own data”) putting the control back into the hands of the individual.
Our digital world can add so much to society and the economy. It is up to all of us, as pioneers in this information revolution, to find the solutions that will replicate the protections that were built into the processes of the analogue and paper world that had evolved over more than two hundred years.