There’s a simple way to regulate Facebook, Google and other massive digital companies
The initial effects of the Facebook data disaster were mostly negative with personal data exposed for over 87 million users worldwide. The moral victories are only just becoming apparent.
One positive resulting from the Facebook fiasco is the international awareness created toward personal data privacy. Facebook consistently boasts its more than two billion users worldwide, so it’d be fair to say the average internet-enabled human has an account with the social media giants and found the reports disconcerting — or at least personally relevant.
Prior to the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data debacle, with the exception of internet stooges like the one writing this blog, the majority of internet users did not realize the degree to which personal information is tracked, sold and utilized by digital companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon.
There are multiple safety provisions used by the tech community and informed consumers alike, from VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to ad blockers to extensions like Internet Noise. The ultimate fix, as Wall Street Journal columnist Andy Kessler points out, is simpler than most realize.
“Let’s flip the whole thing—make it about property rights, 21st-century style. America was built on property rights. Congress can deliberate for 90 seconds and then pass the Make the Internet Great Again Act. The bill would contain five words: ‘Users own their private data,’” Kessler said in an April 8 column. “If you upload to Facebook photos from your last beach vacation—though please don’t—you still own them. But if I go to your page, zoom in to see whom you’re drinking with, click on a nearby ad, message you about it, or even ‘Like’ it, that information about me should remain private too. I should still own it. Same for whatever I search on Google or buy on Amazon. I control it.”
It should be agreed upon that, inherently, consumers “own” their online data. They own it in the sense that they should be able to control how and when it’s utilized and shared. With explicit consent over what they’re sharing, a consumer’s interests and preferences can and should be optimized to drive a desired advertising audience.
Consumers will happily share bits of their data if they are rewarded for doing so. These bits of data won’t be personally identifiable details, unlike tracking, and will reveal a consumer’s purchase intent and shopping interests.
Ads today lack value to consumers because the data is not valuable. Data currently tracked and aggregated doesn’t lead to a consumer’s specific purchase intent because it’s third party data. Only first party data, created by the consumer, can effectively communicate purchase intent.
With consumers in control, the data is more valuable. No more crazy, creepy tracking to figure out a consumer’s purchase intent. No more A.I. guessing what a consumer’s interests are. A brand simply asks the consumer which products they are interested in and receive value from. No more retargeted ads that provide zero value.