Is Data Privacy Dead?

By | Small Business

Did you see the post we Tweeted last week, called “Data Privacy is Dead and SaaS Holds the Smoking Gun”? Catchy, if a bit alarming.

The writer of this post, Michael Cullen, admits upfront:

“The purpose of this shameless paraphrasing of Mashable CEO, Pete Cashmore’s statement in October 2009 that “privacy is dead and social media holds the smoking gun” is to highlight the parallels between an individual’s personal information and enterprise’s confidential data.”

Is he right? I doubt anyone would debate that social media is guilty in the murder of personal privacy. Unless you operate on a cash-only basis and shun all social media, you know that Big Brother is watching everything you do. (And by Big Brother, I mean Facebook. And Google. Even LinkedIn digs a bit deep for comfort – they sometimes try to make me “connect” with people I had forgotten existed. I’m like dude, I quit that job a over decade ago, and that guy was my boss’ cousin’s accountant. Stop it.)

Is data privacy equally doomed? For starters, let’s draw the distinction between data security and data privacy. One of the biggest concerns when SaaS first emerged was data security – sure, we said, SaaS offers small to midsize companies the chance to boost their computing power for a fraction of the price of traditional software, but is it safe? Questions and answers about data security have provided hot debate for SaaS vendors and customers alike over the past few years. At this point it’s not so much a question of yes or no as how do we best manage data security? (Step 1: backup.)

Data privacy is a separate issue, and one that we’re just now starting to think about. SaaS vendors, by their very nature, may find themselves in possession of a vast amount of information – aggregated customer data – which could be incredibly valuable. Perhaps to their customers, perhaps to other sources. For the most part SaaS customer data is anonymised, so no one can cry “blatant-privacy-breach!” (Or even, HEY!) But what if aggregated customer data is used to compile reports that go counter to the customer’s interests – for example, a phone company’s data shows that the phone company provides terrible service and is overcharging for it? They might not be so happy about that data being “collected” by the SaaS vendor as a matter of course. But is the vendor’s collection of that data a breach of privacy? Even if it’s anonymous?

Data privacy is something we all need to think about. All our data will be in the cloud sooner or later. It’s up to us to decide who it belongs to, where it lives, and what vendors can do with it.

Are you worried about data privacy? Who owns SaaS data – the vendor or the customer? If data is anonymized, should vendors be able to harvest it as they please? Tell us what you think!

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Is Data Privacy Dead?

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