Don’t spy – Engage!

Companies, social media, and apps are collecting our data. But then what? At NXP’s Digital Identity Forum a panel of inspiring experts discussed what it takes to turn data collection from a perceived threat into an opportunity to increase our wellbeing.

“Do you have any data regrets?” was the first thing moderator and TV journalist Ben Fajzullin asked the audience at NXP’s Forum on Digital Identity at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. He earned lots of smiles and affirmative nods. Haven’t we all downloaded an app or agreed to Terms of Use when we hadn’t read them or weren’t quite sure what they were all about? Author and panelist John C. Havens illustrated this point by highlighting an experiment carried out in London. The company who lead the experiment inserted a clause into it’s T&Cs stipulating those who signed up for its free WiFi agreed to give away their first born child – and people still signed up! Obviously, they just did not read what they had clicked on.

We live in a time where more and more data is being collected about us via apps, devices, companies, and governments, creating a digital identity. However, collecting data does not have to be a bad thing. The central question is who has access to and control over our information. At the NXP Forum, the panelist agreed that it is up to companies as well as consumers to make a positive shift happen.CCpVsXzW0AAex4e

German journalist Steffan Heuer opened the Forum with a keynote focusing on the responsibility of each individual. “We have to use common sense and think before downloading an app or posting anything online,” Heuer said. “Once out there, we can’t take it back easily.” Every one of us, he argued, should spend more time and effort to defend our digital selves.

Jeff Miles, Vice President of Mobile Transactions at NXP, pointed out that consumers should start asking tougher questions about what happens with their data. “Everyone should know exactly who their information is going to.” He sees that as responsibility of the industry, too: “Tech companies have an obligation to assist the consumer. We should simplify things like terms of use so they’re easy to understand and quick to read.”

Transparency was the key word during the discussion. The panel agreed that it is an essential prerequisite for people to actually profit from the collection of their personal data. “Companies should provide transparency about what they do with our data,” author and content strategist Kitty Ireland said. “Data has monetary value but it also is the story of our life. It belongs to us, so we should have access to it.”

Author John C. Havens elaborated on this aspect in the second keynote of the Forum. “It’s not about privacy, it’s about control,” he said. “We should be able decide what data we want to share.” Companies, he argued, will in the long run profit only if they involve the people they are tracking. Havens sees a control shift underway. “Once we get the framework of data control set, we will be able to take advantage of the data collected.”

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As Kitty Ireland pointed out, too: If used wisely, data can help to improve the human condition as it is an unprecedented repository of knowledge about human behavior. It could even improve urban planning, discover health and well-being trends within populations and thus help provide individually targeted care and education.

In the end, the panel agreed that companies have to involve consumers as partners and stop tracking and collecting data without their knowledge. “The goal of innovation should be to increase our wellbeing instead of increasing profit”, John C. Havens said. NXP’s Jeff Miles agreed and ended in an optimistic note: “Tech companies will innovate on behalf of consumers,” he said. “We should not be afraid of tech.”

Martijn van der Linden
Martijn van der Linden
Martijn van der Linden is PR & Communications Manager for EMEA at NXP Semiconductors.

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