In a competitive digital landscape, the pressure is on for companies to whip up their best recipe to provide an outstanding digital experience and lure consumers — even when that means using their (not so) secret ingredient of user data. But the policy of favoring convenience over security inevitably led to a burst making data protection one of 2018’s hottest topics.
Technology is shaping the world we live in, but the scandals of 2018 – including Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica story where the personal data of millions of unaware users were harvested without their knowledge or consent – acted as a wake-up call for many. As a result, consumers are now better aware of their rights and demanding greater transparency and accountability from companies who profit from their data. When Facebook revealed in October 2018 how 30M accounts suffered a massive breach, or when MasterCard and Google tracked the shopping behavior of 2B customers, users were left in utter shock and questioned their individual privacy and data rights.
Since the adoption of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, a clear and distinguishable consent is now expected from consumers online, among other regulations. And when companies fail to comply, they can face big penalties. Google was the first to fall victim of GDPR, and is now facing a whooping fine of €50M (almost $57M) — showing how the law is not solely a European issue, but a case to watch out for by foreign companies who deal with EU citizens.
Nevertheless, the risk of losing private data is a reality despite the regulations in place. Perhaps this is why, amidst the celebrations, there are skeptics insisting that Privacy is Dead Day would be more proper given the occasion — and perhaps for good reason. “Given the current state of big data collection and sharing by online giants, combined with the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, it would be much more accurate to call it Lack of Privacy Day” says Taylor Armerding, Forbes Contributor.
So, where does that leave us? On a brighter note, there are various ways of getting involved and educating oneself for a safer and more secure digital environment. And when it comes to payments, cash is by far the tool that best protects our privacy as it is banknotes and coins that are exchanged, not data. And with the events that played out last year, this only adds to the many reasons why cash generates trust.
Digital technologies are indeed contributing to huge, positive changes across the world, but we must also be aware of the implications for society, for democracy and the individual. Technological innovation is advancing at full speed and as much as we need to seize these exciting opportunities, we must also know how to protect ourselves from any negative offshoots. Cash is the most GDPR-compliant payment method and should be promoted – and supported – as such. The bottom line is, robbing society of their access to cash is as unjust as profiting from their private information behind their backs.
In an effort to promote data privacy awareness and education, Data Protection Day (DPD), an international campaign held annually on 28 January, advocates for consumers to have full knowledge of what tech companies are bringing to their table.