Another day, another breaking news story about how a large company is misusing or mishandling customer data. And yet, despite the constant backlash that companies who engage in such practices are subject to, it seems that not many are actually changing their ways. Sure, they might put up new pages on their website detailing their privacy policies, and make it easier for users to see what kind of information is being collected, but very few have made substantial changes to the way they use customer data. The reason for this is simple: our data is lucrative, and it’s the raw material that has made companies like Facebook and Google so successful.
Take Facebook. Most people are familiar with the company as a social network platform – a place where one can interact with friends, share news stories, and watch entertaining videos. But Facebook’s largest revenue source is advertising – and in order to provide the best results for its advertising partners, the company needs to collect a huge amount of information on the billions of people who are using its platform for free. So, even if Facebook does not share user information with advertisers, as it has continuously asserted, it is in the company’s interest to gather as much personal information as possible. As long as advertising remains Facebook’s greatest source of revenue, it will continue to look for ways to maneuver around regulations and use our data.
In many ways, data has become one of the most valuable resources available to businesses. In fact, most businesses have come to view the data they have at their disposal as their greatest competitive advantage, especially as they embrace Big Data and artificial intelligence initiatives. Consequently, expect to see companies continue to look for ways to collect as much information on their users as possible – and expect hackers to continue to try to get their hands on as much of that data as possible.