What Does Privacy Mean in the Fully Connected, Digital World?

What Does Privacy Mean in the Fully Connected, Digital World?

Privacy, meet ubiquity. The impact of digital everything on traditional expectations about privacy is not obvious to people. Generally speaking, the largest group of consumers – Millennials – have been very willing to allow their privacy to be monitored by companies like Google, in return for instant access to the digital world.

The question is: What does privacy mean in the fully connected, digital world? Here are some curious facts.

Privacy, meet ubiquity. In post-1964 world of siloed communication systems (after the AT&T breakup), there was a natural defense system in place. Everybody knew something about your life, but nobody knew everything. Flash forward to the point where a very few corporate entities have access to almost everything and everyone. Consider that:

  • In 2014, 80% of the digital downloads of music went to 1% of the artists.
  • Google’s Double Click ad placement service controls about 80% of the ads which appear online.
  • If you want 25 MPS of internet service, 75% of Americans have one choice: Comcast.

Now comes Uber, the poster child for the so called “1099 Economy.” It is great from so many perspectives – greater asset utilization, extra income for the “independently employed” to say nothing of getting to the airport cheaper. But Uber has said that its long-term plan is to own its own cars – and to make those cars robotic so they drive themselves. Pretty smart: Build a huge global business based on low cost labor, then invest capital to take out the rest of the labor cost.

The societal impact of all this is not yet apparent, but it’s worth keeping one eye open for the coming backlash.

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