We are moving to a more digitally conscious environment. The data empowerment movement has become a global push for more transparent data practices and has resulted in more internet users taking control of their data.
Let’s face it, in today’s world data is king. Living in a digitally driven culture has resulted in large companies amassing personal data and consumers have become accustomed to it. That information is then turned around and presented in the form of personalization and ad targeting. Everytime you search the web you are presented with personalized ads, products recommended for you, and your streaming service seems to know you perfectly.
The simple truth is when you interact with the world-wide-web you are also interacting with Big Tech. Every search, click, and like trains Big Tech’s algorithms to learn more about you. It takes your information and uses it to strategically serve you content that will keep you engaged.
Data empowerment is a movement working to change the processes that govern our digital space. Essentially, data empowerment is all about putting people first. By placing the consumer in the center of data initiatives, we build a more conscious digital environment. The goal is to give people influence over the algorithms that affect their daily lives. When we implement data empowerment, it means that consumers can decide how their data is used and exercise protection and privacy rights. Plus, it also means that corporations must be transparent and accountable for their practices. You have agency over your data, not Big Tech.
In order to be rewarded for what you share we need to shift who has control of data. This is where data empowerment steps in. When data can be controlled by those who produce it we change our digital landscape to start putting people first. Invisibly is at the forefront of data empowerment. We are working hard to change the status-quo of data collection through information, accessibility, and empowerment for all.
While Big Tech can readily collect data, it still has rules to follow. It is important to understand the difference between data empowerment, data rights and data ethics.
When we speak of data ethics it is in reference to the moral relevance of data collection. It examines what practices are being used to mine data as well as the type of data being gathered. It places transparent practices at the forefront and should be considered by companies when collecting user information.
Data rights on the other hand are the rights the government or any larger body like Big Tech has to hold valuable intellectual property. Essentially, this means that the government and other large corporations have the right to compile and use statistics and other data in order to match or phase market competition.
While data ethics is geared towards ensuring that companies follow best practices, data empowerment is about the user. It is an actionable way to hold Big Tech accountable for data ethics while also shifting data control from companies back into the hands of consumers. Empowerment allows consumers an in-depth awareness of how their information is being used. Even more, it allows users the right to protect their privacy and even produce data to use for the common good. All in all, it puts people before businesses.
With all this data reformation, there are still larger issues to address. One major concern is the information gap. This is wider than we think. While consumers are side-lined from data collection, there are also heavier social consequences. The information gap breeds data inequality. Essentially, this means that some information is readily available to a select group and not others. For instance, some development projects create ‘superman systems’ where only a single person or group can have access to data. This comes in the form of data dashboards. What happens is a small group is privy to information while others are not. Instead of making information accessible to a select group, it needs to be available to ordinary citizens, so that everyone has a right to make an informed decision about their communities.
Many wonder how much data is really out there being collected by Big Tech. To put it in context, about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is produced every day. That is 2.5 followed by a whopping 18 zeroes. This data is generated by simple tasks such as sending an email, searching the internet, or posting a picture to your socials.
One would like to think that users have a say in what information is collected about them, but consent is a gray area in the digital world. Many websites alert the user that cookies will be used to track them. There is often a choice to accept them or “learn more.” It is infrequent that an outright decline will be shown. Even more, if a user does want to be informed before selecting “accept” they are faced with unintelligible legal jargon that is tricky to understand and takes too much time to read.
The truth is, all of the data is at Big Tech’s fingertips. It is not far-fetched for a corporation to collect information like political beliefs, location, economic behavior and so much more. This free availability of data and practice of collecting is changing business models. Companies are experiencing a wealth of growth based on how well they can gather and harness this data to use for advertising. A consumer does not get to partake in this wealth. The only real payoff is that Google knows what you like a bit better. But there is a greater problem. When companies collect and people aren’t being actively involved in this process, it creates an ever widening information gap. Big Tech has more access to your data than you do. Now, consumers are treated as spectators to the collection process when they should play an active role. It seems as Big Tech moves forward consumers are left behind.
The simple truth is that everyone is responsible for data empowerment. While it puts data back in the hands of consumers, everyone is a contributor to its success. Government agencies, users, and Big Tech need to participate in order for it to work. The good news is it has been. Here are some examples of how data empowerment is changing our digital space.
Denied access to government records and data that impacted their villages and land, the villagers of West Kalimantan took matters into their own hands. They built drones to collect aerial mapping data of their villages. With this data to expose the mining companies that were creating massive environmental damage and violating land rights of the indigeneous communities. They harnessed this information and used it to gain favor in the Constitutional Courts. In turn, the mining companies were held accountable for their actions and land rights were relinquished to the people.
Created in the Philippines, Check MY School is a community-based monitoring and school improvement system. It works by including community stake-holders in the collection and analysis of school performance data. With this information available and free for the community to access, parents, students, teachers and others can openly discuss the problems and potential for improvement. This allows community members to source problems and also partake in solutions. The entire community is invited to actively participate in school governance processes. Citizens can aslo monitor the performance of government-run schools. They can check on anything from procuring school supplies and textbooks, to completing construction and maintenance of new schools and buildings.
Data empowerment is happening close to home too. You can participate today in a way that is easy and convenient for you. With Invisibly, you can put the power of data back in your hands. Invisibly is all about giving you a seat at the table and a cut of the transactions that happen behind the scenes. Your attention and data are the most valuable commodities today. So why is it that you never get rewarded for sharing them?
We live in a world where data collection, disparity, and information gaps are common occurrences. But they don’t have to be. As a culture, we are becoming more digitally conscious and consumers are starting to exercise their rights to privacy and be privy to their data before Big Tech can get their hands on it.