Data and Analytics

Information Privacy VS Data Transparency – Better Business Practices

Image of person peaking through blinds

In the best way, information privacy is what keeps our personal data safe from hackers and thieves. But we know this isn’t what really happens. Many businesses routinely sell user data for profit. We’ve seen countless headlines about poorly handled data breaches, lawsuits, and illegally acquired data. So, people are fighting for data transparency and their right to data accessibility. Here’s what you need to know.

The best combination of information privacy and data transparency balances the security of personal data and honest business practices. The public wants to know what happens to their data while gaining a deeper insight into operations. A lack of transparency and accountability drives mistrust and poor insights. We’re not saying you have to stop data collection or share every piece of data with the public, but you should be able to share insights that involve personal data and prove you aren’t being dishonest.

No protection

It’s reasonable to think that any organization’s goals includes privacy. And it’s just as reasonable to think companies won’t compromise your data safety, right? In most cases, we don’t know exactly what happens to our data until it’s too late. Sure, targeted marketing and geo-location track our online activity, but where does it go? It’s this uncertainty that leaves customers in the dark. Facebook is no stranger to data privacy scandals, and gained notoriety after Cambridge Analytica collected the information of 80+ million users thanks to subpar privacy measures. Cambridge Analytica was the last straw after a number of privacy violations. Similarly, Equifax (a credit ratings company) went though a scandal after more than 147 million people had their personal data exposed by a massive data breach. And if that wasn’t enough, there was a second breach not long after. However, even after experts went searching for the cyber-attackers, the data couldn’t be found. Today, Equifax lives on by selling consumer data with FICO.

It’s only after a major scandal like this companies realize they have to do something, but data should be well-protected before a major breach. It’s a frightening reality when our data is commodity and we have little insight into what it’s used for. People are facing more personal data collection methods that are increasingly invasive, but get none of the insights in return.

Data secrecy isn’t always a good thing

If our data is being sold, shouldn’t you get a piece of the action, a “data dividend” so to speak? Or at least tell us what we want to know. Despite customer engagement in providing data, we don’t have access to data that affects us. Because companies know privacy issues damage reputations, they often refrain from revealing data problems or about keep quiet about secret deals. Intentionally withholding data that affects your audience personally is deceitful and disastrous.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, opened a hospital in San Francisco. Patients of the hospital revealed they were secretly billed exorbitant amounts of money because the hospital never revealed their insurance and billing policies. Had patients known, many would not have chosen Zuckerberg’s hospital. But even in the aftermath, patients suing the hospital would receive little to no information from the city and hospital. Salesforce currently faces a lawsuit filed by 50 women who are victims of human trafficking. The suit accuses Salesforce of supporting Backpage, an illegal advertising website, by selling a customized database that facilitated sex trafficking. If the public had known of Salesforce’s client and Zuckerberg’s billing practices, what would have happened to their image, revenue, and brand? It’s clear these companies intentionally hid information that affect people’s decisions and lives.

Data can be presented publicly, but conveniently leave out certain data to manipulate the end result is simply greedy. Even protected data can be damaging and dishonest. Colleges are at the center of current data controversies and brings corruption to the forefront. Students aren’t able to see admissions details (among other information), often filled with dubious admissions, affecting thousands of deserving applicants every year. This year’s explosive college admissions fraud highlights the excessively unfair advantage wealthy families are awarded.

Balance the data

Some information must still be safely handled and protected. Other information should be public knowledge to encourage engagement and regain public trust. Become a trustworthy organization by practicing honest data. It can be as simple as building a report or as in-depth as a custom platform and anything else in between. Whatever solution you choose should always revolve around data insights and honesty.


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