Our data in this age of social media have never been so ubiquitous. Our personal information is readily available on sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and our professional lives are easily accessible on LinkedIn. The recent events that have transpired from the Facebook hearings at the US Congress prove how much we know about other people and how much we provide for others to see.
However, with this deluge of information, we do not know how external organizations use these data to entice and manipulate us into buying, reading, clicking, subscribing, or liking a particular page, profile, or person. Thus, is it still possible for us to remain truly private in this day and age? Is it still possible for us in business to safely manage information provided to us by our customers and stakeholders? Is it also possible to have privacy as a business?
On the possibly of being truly private, it is impossible for us in business and management to be out of the loop. Our names, departments, and positions are posted on our company websites, and our email addresses are sometimes also posted, to the delight of spammers and scammers. We may not be active in social media, but we will always be tagged by friends, family, or foes. Our lives are truly connected even if we minimize or even stop our social media use. We do not even have to give away our business cards for others to learn about us; people just have to Google to know about us.
On managing information provided to us by our customers and stakeholders, the Data Privacy Act of 2012 protects our fundamental human right to privacy.
Moreover, “the State recognizes the vital role of information and communications technology in nation-building and its inherent obligation to ensure that personal information in information and communications systems in the government and in the private sector are secured and protected,” which ensures that information provided with consent must be used only for its originally intended purpose. We should make sure that personal information such as birth dates, mobile numbers, and email and home addresses are not unscrupulously used to further personal gains or organizational profits.
On having privacy as business, the possibility of having to pay to make one’s account in Facebook “private” has sprung up. Since Facebook is free, it makes money through the ads that pop out in our pages. Advertisers use Facebook to target different demographics based on what we have posted on our profiles. This is similar to seeing a big car advertisement along the highways in our country; the only difference is that we see these ads in our newsfeeds.
The business of privacy is evident in high-end service industries, where one has to pay a steep price to stay in an ultra-private resort and remain an “anonymous” billionaire in an offshore banking facility. This situation is being replicated in the digital age; now there are organizations that provide private and secure networks to banks and other financial intermediaries. The rise of business-to-business organizations that provide safe and secure networks to make data private will continue to grow.
Our concern for privacy is no longer confined to our homes but extends to the worldwide web. Social media has made it easier for would-be scammers to use our data. We have a responsibility to protect and to manage the information given to us by our customers. Privacy comes at a price, so we must be vigilant when giving out information.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of De La Salle University, its faculty and administrators.
Brian C. Gozun is Dean of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University.