Tracking Personal Information for Capitalism and Global Health Management

Jun 3, 2020

“ Data is the new oil.”

-Clive Humby

Unless one goes to great lengths to be untraceable (and some do), we all are observed and documented across our day-to-day activities, and our behaviors and activities are translated into data that are analyzed to support all kinds of government and private business sector strategies. For example, your financial activities – banking transactions, non-cash purchases, investments, geography history, education, employment history, web search history. And further, the recency and frequency with which you engage. Some of this data is not individual identity specific, and some is.

Many of us are aware of magnitude of the information that is gathered and analyzed about us, but it may surprise you how many are not. And, yes, privacy laws and policies prevail that may prevent the gatherer of  information to share it unpermitted, but most assuredly the gatherer is exhaustively assessing the information they gather about you, using it to develop strategies for retaining your business, devising ways to increase how much you (and people who profile like you) spend with them, and ultimately, effectively targeting to enhance their business. Consumer data collection and analysis is shrewd and tactical.

So, there is all that information gathering going on in the background for all those purposes, whether we are aware of it or not. And, now our attention is being heightened about other public information gathering being used for global health management, specifically as it related to COVID-19 and “contact tracing,” the process by which those who’ve been diagnosed with the virus can be matched with those who had close proximity to them using mobile phone data. It is an opt-in process, and could potentially aid in tracking down people who may have been exposed to the virus.

Many of us have been considering the risk-reward paradigm of becoming a willing participant of behavior and socialization data mining. Some have argued that this is just another way for corporate giants like Google and Apple—both of which are teaming to create a contract-tracing app—to gather, store and, potentially, exploit private information about consumers. Media enterprises are filling news segments with pro and con perspectives for this type of tracking. The sentiment of many, regardless of potential personal privacy infringements, is that it is inevitable. And while most U.S. adults are concerned about data use by companies (79%) and the government (64%), two-thirds believe it is not possible to go through daily life without companies or government collecting data about them. This is according to a 2019 Pew Research Center study wherein it is also reported that half of Americans are extremely or very concerned about becoming the target or victim of a scam or fraud resulting from their “information” being harvested. And, this concern seems to span across generations, according to 2018 AARP data. In the first six months of 2019 alone, there were more than 3800 publicly disclosed breaches; there were 6500 in the year prior.

However, Millennials are the least concerned about being victimized by a data breach or fraud. For example, 55% of Millennials believe it is very or somewhat safe to access free public Wi-Fi networks, although just 46% of Generation X and 35% of Baby Boomers feel the same, according to AARP reports. As is often the case, Millennials are used as a bellwether because they are currently the majority demographic and are considered the largest group of influencers. It may be that Millennials’ have less concern about personal info gathering because they are of the personal info sharing generation, and have only known a digitally based world, one that entrenched with information collecting through social media.

What once society may have deemed dubious is now not so much.

~ Marketing Workshop