(Wake-up user, Wake-up!)
So you have been planning to buy a new phone for a very long time. What’s the first thing you do?
Probably speak to your friends, go online and do a lot of research — find out about the specs, watch comparison videos. You also speak to friends who have the phone already, look at the reviews and so on. Even while buying the phone from the store, you are prepared to ask the store managers a hundred questions, you ask them thrice about the warranty, guarantee, service centres to be really really sure and then only then— you buy the phone.
What if this phone was free? Would you care as much ? And what if a trusted source gave it to you?
Now replace the phone with an application and replace the trusted source with your phone. Does it ring a bell?
I asked one of my friends if she ever read Tik-tok’s (a free app) terms and conditions before downloading the app. Or for that matter for anything at all.
Here is what she said:
“Paka Mat (Don’t bug me) ! Every body does it. If anything bad had to happen, everyone will sink together. ”
Frankly this would have been my answer too, as I myself have never ever read any terms and conditions for paid or unpaid services.
So I thought before asking anyone else, I should answer this question myself.
The answer maybe dates back to the time when I started using apps like Whats-app. In my head it was never a product I was consuming. It was a service that would facilitate conversation like a mail or a letter. It had no ads. It just happened to me when I was quite young and it became like the primary way of staying in touch with people. And data back then meant something that computers have, never thought of my personal information as data.
Then one thing led to another and today I don’t know how much of my data has already gone, where it has gone and through what sources. So much so that I don’t care about the consequences. I have two email ID’s both of which are full of spam and adverts, my phone has messages I don’t track anymore and it doesn’t even bother me.
Actually it does bother me but I don’t know how to stop it. It’s the classic problem of just giving up when there is too much on the plate. Like not studying before an exam because you know you will fail anyways.
Also it feels okay because we are in it together.
There is something very ‘secure’ about shared misery, it starts feeling okay, like the new norm or something…
Until one day , a light shines within and you and you realise that someone is taking your data for free, and getting money in return. And that money is not reaching you. What is in-fact reaching you is paranoia, disturbance, spams, fake news, targeted ads, most of which don’t do you any good.
Not the best barter, right?
(You want proof? Read my other blog.)
And the bewildering truth is that everything still sort of belongs to us. We are sharing it, we have consented to share it as we trust that our data will be used for our own good — ‘To enhance our experiences’, which most of us don’t bother to track. I don’t.
Hey, I am not trying to blame anyone here. So don’t imagine a formless distant enemy and get anxious. What I am trying to imply is that we need to start being conscious of our data and OWN it, understand the value of it. I have started with my attempts and someday, I hope to be in complete control of my own data. Meanwhile, here are some initial steps that can help you start (maybe)…
As a user of any app or service, or as a buyer of any goods, here are the things we could start with :-
- At a shop, always ask them why they need your data and if they share it with third parties. If it sounds fishy, take a call whether you really want to give your data or not.
- Whenever you download a new app or service, grade its quality (does it look shady, is it coming from a trusted source, what is it used for?)and decide whether you want to share your actual data or not.
- If you are a parent— Train your children, make them understand that they are responsible for their data. Here is a very good source for you to learn more.
- Do not ignore pop-ups. Unlearn the habit of overlooking and clicking on buttons or filling without paying attention. Start taking effort to monitor subconscious actions
- Do not shy away from asking questions about your data privacy especially with concerned people
- Start discussing data
As a Company/ Business owner :-
- Think about the top 5 questions that you need to answer to a user or a buyer that would concern them
- Find interesting ways to present your TnC, for example :- can a user call up at your call centre easily and ask questions before downloading an app? For specially- abled users and people who don’t like reading long text, can they listen to the TnC instead or read the key-points somehow?
- Can you find out with all responsibility whether people actually understand the TnC, take feedback ?
As the App-stores’ and Play-stores’ of the world
- Can you help me buy/download an app based on my privacy preferences.
- Can you grade the app on parameters like — data safe, hack-safe?
That’s some food for thought for now.