Why You Should Care About Privacy

“I have nothing to hide, so I don’t need to worry about privacy.” Right?

Wrong.

With the number of connected devices and access to information growing every year, so does the need for better privacy standards.

Dr. Ann Cavoukian is the Executive Director of the Privacy & Big Data Institute at Ryerson University. In a keynote address at the Wavefront Summit in May 2017, she urged both technology innovators and consumers to commit to a new perspective on privacy.

“Privacy does not equal secrecy. Privacy is about having full control over your personal information,” says Cavoukian.

This freedom to choose is critical and has set the foundation upon which many of our freedoms rest. In Germany, this concept is held to great importance and widely accepted through the term informational self-determination.

So how can we achieve this level of privacy within a society of ubiquitous connectivity? Cavoukian’s suggests Privacy by Design is a start to preserving a culture that includes privacy.

Privacy by Design

The Privacy by Design (PbD) concept is rooted in the idea that privacy considerations should be built directly into the design and operation of new technologies and business processes. It assumes a proactive rather than reactive approach, and places importance on privacy as a default setting.

“Offering privacy as a default setting fosters customer loyalty and trust, and attracts new opportunity – this directly affects your competitive advantage. Privacy is good for business,” says Cavoukian.

Seven foundational principles make up the framework, which have been adopted into 39 languages to date. These principles continue to be accepted by many countries around the world as the international privacy standard, signalling a common need for tighter regulation around privacy concerns.

Wireless, wearables and IoT concerns

In a world of hyper-connected wearables, home automation devices and trackers quantifying every aspect of life, it’s no surprise that privacy concerns have grown among consumers. Here’s a look at a few facts:

  • In 2015, Symantec analyzed a number of wireless wearable products and found that all hardware-based devices were 100% trackable.
  • 12 mobile health and fitness app developers were sharing user information with over 70 different parties, according to a study by the US Federal Trade Commission.
  • From 2005 to 2013, there were over 4,000 reported breaches involving over half a million personal records – 30% of those with records breached will become victims of identity theft (data from Privacy Rights Clearinghouse).

These days, the line between law enforcement, corporate strategy and individual privacy rights is unclear.

Popular virtual assistants like the Amazon Echo for instance have made recent headlines for the wrong reasons. Amazon was recently subpoenaed to hand over voice records relating to a murder. Meanwhile some households earlier this year ended up sponsoring unauthorized shopping sprees, bringing home pounds of cookies and a dollhouse due to a voice-recognition fail.

“Embed Privacy by Design into IoT and all connected devices or face the unintended consequences,” was Dr. Cavoukian’s warning to the Wavefront Summit audience. Organizations and consumers need to get educated on how to lead with privacy in every interaction, purchase decision and product design. With over 20 billion devices projected to be in market by 2020, it’s more important than ever to ensure robust privacy principles make their way into our conversations now and in the future.

Download Cavoukian’s keynote presentation from the Wavefront Summit.

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