There’s an interesting dichotomy when it comes to the use of technology and privacy. Privacy is, as many who work within technology and use the cloud on a daily basis know, the central concern of both businesses and consumers. How data is used, where it is stored, how it is stored; these are all legitimate fears of consumers. They place a great deal of trust in those who hold their information. That trust shouldn’t be taken lightly.
At the same time, consumers are happy to share thoughts, information, personal details, pictures, videos and a whole host of creative content online. Whilst understanding that signing up for a free social media account often means that the commodity is yourself and your data, consumers tend to accept it’s a bargain they’re willing to make.
Say you’re a business operating in the cloud. You offer an e-commerce service and your primary means of customer communication is via email, storing relevant consumer information in cloud storage. A customer contacts you angry that you’re sending them tailored emails and information. They are concerned you might sell on their data, that you’re using it to create a profile of their shopping habits. Meanwhile they are sharing a blow by blow account of what they did at the weekend.
In truth it’s all about choice. When you choose to commodify yourself you don’t necessarily imagine yourself as a consumer first and foremost. You want to share information about yourself to connect with other people. You don’t want businesses and brands to use this information to sell you things.
So how, as a business, do you balance this?
Consumers were never meant to be consistent. But choice and control is the crucial factor. Along with the ability to make an informed choice. Businesses using the cloud for data storage have an obligation to explain to their customers how and where they are storing their data and what it is being used for. That should be all part of the service.
Yet there is also an opportunity for businesses to lead on their wider education of consumers about the use of data and how to share it online. By establishing clearly to customers the basics; what data is, how much, or how little should be shared, what data might be used for etc., businesses can help customers to become savvier. Instead not being sure what their data is used for they make a more informed choice about what to share.
If customers are more of a part of their conversation then they are in a much stronger position therefore to feed into the discussion about how data is stored and manipulated. Customers have to feel that they are in a position of power when it comes to data.
The cloud has enabled businesses to be more flexible and versatile but the storage and use of data remains the most controversial issue when it taps into privacy. By empowering customers and ensuring they are part of the debate and discussion the business achieves two things; one they have consumers feeding into the conversation and defining what data should be used for. Second they engender a sense of trust. Data and its use is an important part of life online. To know that it is valued and that they have control over it will be what guides consumer behaviour in the future.