As more and more applications, websites, and basic smart home devices ask users permissions for their data, people are starting to wonder where their information is going.
The question of privacy, the Internet of Things, and what companies do with an individual’s personal information was the subject of two different sessions at Strata + Hadoop World in NYC.
In a session titled, “Personal information out of context: Building a consumer subject review board,” Evan Sellinger, professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and Jules Polonetsky, executive director and co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum, reflected on how companies are using personal data to test marketing strategies and other branding methods without consumers consent.
“Companies can even predict what we’re doing before we can,” Sellinger said. “The question is what can we learn from that?”
Experiments like a dating website testing its ability to make accurate matchups by also making bad matchups in the process and Facebook testing how users react to positive versus negative news in their feeds were cited as examples of how tech companies are turning consumers off from these platforms.
“What is the appropriate action between data collection and academic data analysis?” Sellinger said.
Because of these methods, companies are losing consumer trust, Polonetsky explained. Many businesses don’t want this, so, in turn Polonetsky and Sellinger suggested enterprises form committees to create protocols to greenlight the usage of personal data while continuing to be transparent to customers.
In another session titled, “What does your smart device know about you?” Charles Givre, data scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton, explained how basic smart devices can obtain more information about a user than they think.
He used a basic smart home app that can monitor an individual’s property or car as an example to demonstrate how much information it picks up, including and not limited to the car’s make, model, and VIN number – which can be used to track the car’s purchase history, among other things.
The app could also trace GPS destination routes, giving someone unknown a clear picture of where the user goes during day-to-day tasks.
Both sessions stressed the need for users to check the fine print of what they sign up for and be cautious about what information they put into the big data world.
“Customers need to decide if it’s worth spending a few dollars to have their whole life on display,” Givre said.