We are all consumers, beyond habits, tastes, needs and even the place where we live. At some point we require goods and services to satisfy and solve day-to-day situations; however, the way we purchase products and services has changed substantially in recent years – even if we are not fully aware of it. Technological progress, digitization and the use of the Internet have not only transformed the way of communicating, but also the way of buying. The arrival of the internet has made it possible to search for suppliers of products and services, no matter where they are on the planet. While the Internet has made the purchasing process notably easier for consumers, it has also made competition between brands more intense than ever before.
Brands now must meet different expectations depending on the consumer’s country and cultural references, but also on their age, gender, standard of living, etc. Data has picked up a new meaning for companies, and as a result, almost any interaction with a large organization result in the collection of customer data. This is due in part to the fact that more data leads to improved online tracking, behavioral profiling, and targeted marketing.
The future therefore lies in an even more personalized approach and advertisements that know your size, your favorite colors, the brands you like and that adapt your feed even more. But how far will the limits of online shopping go in the future?
Privacy or connection?
Our relationship with digital privacy has never been as complicated as it is these days. We are obsessed with how Internet and social media corporations like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google and YouTube use our personal data. However, we are constantly sharing new information on social media. We believe our smart devices listen to private conversations and share valuable information with advertisers. We are deeply wary of most tech companies. Yet we carry our tracking smartphones with us wherever we go. We are in the midst of a tug-of-war between our need for privacy and the desire for personal connection.
Laws that protect consumer privacy
Currently, the United States relies on a mix of state and federal laws that are implemented by several independent government organizations, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). As there is no centralized institution to enforce them, this can sometimes result in inconsistencies and loopholes in US privacy legislation.
On the contrary, legislation in Europe has set rigorous standards of data privacy protection. The European Union, for example, approved the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, which consolidated data privacy rules throughout the EU and modified previous legislation to better reflect current data gathering and sharing practices.
The law also had an impact on countries outside of Europe, like the United States, where multinational firms that serve EU citizens were required to revise their privacy policies to comply with the new policy. Companies that did not comply faced heavy fines. The most significant example is Google, which was fined $57 million under the GDPR in 2019 for failing to follow transparency and consent regulations for the Android phone setup process.
Privacy: a slippery slope
The privacy train left the station a century ago. Our personal data is processed every second: at work, in relations with public authorities, in the health sector, when we purchase goods or services, or when browsing the Internet. Of course, much of this data is anonymized, but certainly not all of it is.
Consumer privacy issues have grown in recent times, with leading web companies like Google and Facebook topping business rankings using web browser data for revenue. Critics of the aforementioned laws worry that they may still fall short and create loopholes that can be exploited by data brokers.
According to a report by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, one of the biggest data breaches occurred with Yahoo in 2013 which exposed around 3 billion accounts. More recently, in June 2021, LinkedIn suffered an attack that compromised the 700 million users that hackers put on a Dark web forum for sale.
The new privacy protections of 2022
The future of consumer privacy in 2022 will likely be defined by the dueling trends of increasingly advanced data collection techniques and advanced consumer privacy protections. Companies are likely to introduce innovative methods of data collection and customers are likely to react in anticipation of increased transparency.
Happy Consumer Rights Day 2022! Do you think that the regulations made so far are sufficient to protect consumer data, or are there other steps to be taken? Tell us what you think in the comments below or hit us up on our socials!