#263Chat: Who Owns Your Online Data?

With Zimbabwe’s Internet penetration rate now above 52% due to the continuous adaption to the Internet of Things, it is high time people start getting knowledge of who takes ownership of their online content.

Millions of pictures and videos are posted on social media platforms on a daily basis. So what happens to your content when it gets online via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or website posting?

There is already friction between consumers and online service providers around ownership of data collected from the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter and others.

There has been serious backlashes against Facebook, for example, which claims ownership of your photos and content posted to your personal news feeds.

Remember online content is now driven by the rising concept of Internet of Things (IoT) which is set to open a floodgate of data, but the question is, who controls that data?

We are now living in a world of smart cars, connected health, smart grids, smart cities etc. The world is becoming connected in a way that was the territory of science fiction just a few short years ago.

A good example in Zimbabwe includes Econet products such as the Econet Connected-Home, Econet Connected-Car, EcoHealth, EcoSure, EcoFarmer, EcoSchool etc. All these smart services tells a breathtaking story of how Zimbabwe is joining the world in building global villages driven by the Internet of Things.

Online Data Privacy is becoming an ever rising concern since service providers do not tell consumers where their data will end being used.

Ericsson and Cisco both predict sharp increase of 50 billion devices to be connected to the Internet by 2020 in a network of “things” that will extend well beyond smartphones, laptops and game consoles to scanners, sensors, etc.

This promise of the Internet of Things will increase today’s data load factors by several orders of magnitude. While this creates questions about how data is collected, ingested, stored and queried, one of the most important considerations will be around ownership and governance around that data.

Constant Data Collection

There is already friction between consumers and online service providers around ownership of data collected from the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter and others. There has been serious backlashes against Facebook, for example, which claims ownership of your photos and content posted to your personal news feeds.

Most consumers don’t realize that when they sign Facebook’s terms of agreement without reading them. Consumers, however, are starting to understand the implications of giving up personal information online as they start to see targeted advertising based on their online profiles and behaviors.

For the most part, as we have seen from this increase in behavior-based, targeted advertising, the access and use of this data is primarily driven by money: ad networks generating revenue from advertisers through more targeted programs that in turn generate revenue for advertisers by getting consumers to spend more money because of more targeted advertising – the circle of life, if you will.

Maybe you like the enhanced experience Yahoo! gives you for fantasy football, but what happens when there are 50 billion connected devices, the majority of which are machines like sensors embedded in cars, clothes, cardiac monitors and more?

Who’s In Control?

As data is increasingly collected and shared, the most important question – at least for consumers – is who owns the data in your smart meter and what does that information tell you – or tell others about you? If combining data from smart cars with data from smart traffic grids and smart energy delivery has value, how do these systems know how to speak to one another, and what governs who can access this data and how?

What about medical data? When the sensor sewn into a piece of clothing, or on a wristband that is tracking vital signs and alerting your doctor when certain thresholds are breached, where and how is that data held and managed?

Unfortunately, data ownership and privacy legislation is by no means a done deal. Various international regulators including the National Telecommunications and Information Administration from the US issued a Request for Comments on how issues raised by big data impact the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

The primary focus though, is to put individuals in control of their own data and how it is used, and to ensure that their data is safeguarded. While some businesses may look at this as limiting the success of the Internet of the Things (from a revenue perspective), it is absolutely critical to he realization of a wide-scale adoption.

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