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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”