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The Trifecta of Consumer Data Privacy: Education, Advocacy & Accountability

It's time to build a culture of privacy, one that businesses uphold.

Arjun Bhatnagar

October 19, 2023

3 Min Read
Person holding up a magnifying glass to read the word "PRIVACY" on a laptop screen
Source: imageBROKER.com GmbH & Co. KG via Alamy Stock Photo

We live in an exposed world — particularly when dealing with our digital presence. People have become desensitized to the transactional nature of exchanging pieces of themselves for access.

Availability to new accounts, social media platforms, educational opportunities, professional forums, and nearly every need and want that exists on the Internet demands an exchange of personal data.

Big data has discovered the keys to the kingdom, and they come in the form of your personal information.

A Sense of Powerlessness When It Comes to Preserving Privacy

The data trade has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry. It's a juggernaut that is constantly hurtling toward new profit margins, often at the expense of personal privacy. And one of the most disconcerting aspects of this concept is the public's often lackadaisical response.

What we've discovered is that it's not that people don't care; it's simply that they're existing in a state of information overload that lends itself to decision paralysis. They know that their privacy is being violated, but feel powerless in the face of well-oiled data brokers. The ability to take back control of their information seems just out of reach, especially with new ways to harvest data taking shape with such frequency.

After conducting a 2,000-person consumer privacy survey, we discovered that 50% of respondents would take more privacy action if they had better tools and 44% if they had a better understanding of what happens to their data once it is shared. The survey also revealed the extreme responsibility individuals feel to maintain their privacy, with 81% saying that they hold themselves most accountable to protect their personal information even after it has been shared.

These insights help us understand that to change the privacy landscape as we currently know it, we must unite in aggressive consumer education and advocacy to support actions that can drive new approaches to privacy.

Education Requires a Collaborative Effort

As generations of people begin growing up with constant access to the Internet, we're seeing more of the consequences associated with data sharing. Much like new medications that often don't initially display side-effects, we're starting to clearly feel the side-effects of the public presence of our personal information.

Data breaches feel commonplace — because they are. Nearly 422 million (more than the population of the United States) people were impacted by some form of breach in 2022. Yet, the response within the US is usually to wait and see what happens, maybe put a freeze on credit, or sign up for an activity-monitoring program.

Personal, Organizational, and Systemic Advocacy Is Needed

There's a certain culture of reactiveness rather than proactiveness when it comes to a violation of our personal privacy.

To activate change, there must be a collaborative effort between consumers, government agencies, and companies. New legislation has been moving forward, and the public has seen companies like Meta being held accountable for data violations. However, the missing piece is a culture of privacy that is founded and upheld by both established and emerging businesses.

People can take control over what they share, but as long as it comes at the cost of access, they'll continue to feel pressured to provide personal information. With this system of exchange still in place, consumers will have a difficult time advocating for themselves in meaningful ways.

Privacy as a human right is a social movement that all entities need to embrace and support through action. Only in doing this can we truly empower people to take control of their data in a lasting and meaningful way.

About the Author(s)

Arjun Bhatnagar

CEO, Cloaked

Arjun Bhatnagar is the CEO of Cloaked, the consumer-first privacy company dedicated to bringing humanity to the Internet. Over the course of his career, Arjun has successfully started two companies, taught coding at MIT, worked as a partner at a venture firm, and founded a nonprofit dedicated to bringing education to underserved communities. In 2016, Arjun and his brother Abhijay Bhatnagar sold their first startup: Hey! HeadsUp. Arjun understands more than 15 coding languages and is dedicated to making the world a better place through people-centric innovation.

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