How Much Info Is Too Much?
With the rise in mobility, comes an increase in data. And,if it seems to you that virtually everyone on earth has a mobile phone, you’re right: According to the United Nations Telecommunications agency’s most recent figures, more than 6.8 billion cellular subscriptions are in existence worldwide, and that’s pretty close to the world’s population figure of 7 billion. With all those cell phones in use, m-commerce — specifically, using handheld devices to purchase goods and services — is quickly becoming ubiquitous. And with that comes the realization that a whole lot of data is being generated, and cataloged.
During Tuesday’s keynote panel at the Consumer Electronics Show, “How Mobile Is Fundamentally Changing our World,” technology experts from across the industry addressed how mobile connectivity is transforming business and personal lives. the panel discussion was hosted by John Ford of CNBC, and included Jan Brockmann, chief technology officer and senior vice president of Electrolux; Phil Abram, chief infotainment officer of General Motors; Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm Incorporated; and Jeroen Tas, CEO HISS of Philips. The panelists discussed concerns regarding mobile connectivity, including privacy and data collection in addition to how different sectors are evolving due to the influence of constant Internet access; for example, the smart home, automobiles and the health care industry.
“We are, as an industry, at a very strong point of experimentation,” said Mollenkopf. “People are trying to figure out what are these new categories, how do they work, who’s going to win, what will the consumer understand and what will the consumer put up with in terms of data being taken about their daily lives, and how will we manage that as an industry.”
That last point is key: How much of their personal information will consumers be willing to share, particularly with retailers? And, with the Internet of Things being touted as the “next big thing,” there is concern that the continuous collection of every ounce of data will reveal too much about individuals. Correlating the “just right” pieces of information can unravel a person’s anonymity, exposing information not intended for public consumption.
“This pervasive collection of data inevitably gives rise to concerns about how all of this personal information will be used. Will the data be used solely to provide services to consumers?” said Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission in her CES keynote. “Or will the information flowing in from our smart cars, smart devices, and smart cities just swell the ocean of ‘big data,’ which could allow information to be used in ways that are inconsistent with consumers’ expectations or relationship with a company?”
Retailers are in the position to collect huge amounts of data. Consumers should always be provided with clear and simple notices of the proposed uses of their data and a way to opt-in, or out. Where possible, retailers could also de-identify information; data concerning trends in fashion do not need to be personally identifiable, for example. Trends are, after all, general observations. As Ramirez noted, fostering consumer trust is just good business sense.