When anthropologists try to understand an ancient culture, let’s say the Greeks, they look at the physical artifacts left behind—the tools, the utensils, etc. and try to infer insights into the culture and civilization. However, this will not be a problem for those that follow us in 5,000 years because we will have left behind more than physical artifacts, we have left behind digital artifacts.
Our digital artifacts can be found everywhere
Often called ‘digital exhaust’, the artifacts of our generation can be found everywhere. They go from birth through death. Even the so-called ‘Internet of Everything’ is really data about us and how we interact with connected devices. And digital exhaust is created as the Book of Ruth said ‘wherever you go’. While I may not care when future generations look at my digital exhaust, I care when people do it today. For this reason, we should ask about who should have the right to view our data or when they should have the privilege to do so.
My bank knows so much about me
I do not know about you, but I am personally amazed when I call my bank to do a password reset about how much they know me—in particular, how many pieces of digital data they have collected about me. So it begs the question, who should have the right to view my (your) data? Because as recent hacks have proven, yours and my non-public data matters.
Courts create the US right to privacy
While in the US the right to data privacy has largely been inferred, it is becoming much more codified around the world. For those that do not know US Courts created our ‘right to privacy’ in order to deal with wiretapping. Europe’s GDPR is much more prescriptive. I want to suggest, however, that all of us have a right to privacy even for bits of digital information that we have shared directly or inadvertently with our Internet Service Provider, Bank, Retailer and the list goes on. My data matters and I do not want it released or shared inappropriately.
Value is created for me in analyzing my data
Now let me be clear, it is to my benefit that organizations try to develop a single view of me. Companies like Nordstrom, for example, use the insight gained to discover what I like and to help me find the perfect shirt, slacks, and tie combination when I come in. I value this usage of my data but I do not want this information released to others. Privacy is not dead when I share it with a relationship. According to Michelle Dennedy, personal information is an asset that should be protected by privacy rules, processes, and technologies. And, because my data matters, I expect my data privacy is being protected by my merchant and business relationships. Just as important, I want it only being used for purposes that Michelle describes as 'authorized, fair, and legitimate'. This means that it is only shared where someone only has appropriate privilege.
Here is a great example. I learned the other day from my Uber driver that Uber allows him to call me for a fixed amount a time after the ride, but they do not provide him with my phone number or other identifiers. This protects me and the driver.