Information Governance

The Myth and Magic of Privacy

ARMA Live! 2018

ARMA Live 2018

At first glance, Anaheim, California is home to little more than Disneyland, a convention center, and the amenities necessary to cater to each. Yet it’s also home to some of the most impressive and oppressive crowds in the country, with tens of thousands of people visiting the park each day. Its success serves as a potent illustration of a thoroughly modern dilemma: people are willing to give up a lot of privacy for a few extra perks.

Times of Change

This October, Anaheim was also home to ARMA Live! 2018, a conference focused on the power of innovation and the individual in a shifting field: records management. When ZL Tech CEO Kon Leong spoke at the 2017 conference, he discussed the concept of change as both a blessing and a curse. Sure, innovation can give us exhilarating technology (like the new Incredicoaster), but it can also pose new challenges (like 3 hour lines for updated rides).

At the time, he wasn’t referencing the Disney parks or even new file management software; instead, he was looking towards the upcoming enforcement of GDPR. This year, however, it became clear the scope of change has shifted. A single regulation, even one as significant as GDPR, is merely a symptom of a more global phenomenon: people are beginning to care about privacy.

The Power of Privacy

During her keynote presentation this year, Jennifer Golbeck discussed the shifting ‘walls’ of privacy. Traditionally, people have had control over the information available on them: if it didn't happen in the public sphere, it was private. Or so they thought. Unfortunately, this illusion of privacy has carried over to the modern world. As Golbeck noted, not having a Facebook profile might make certain privacy enthusiasts a bit smug… until they realize Facebook has a shadow profile for them, too. It’s incredible how much seemingly private data can say about us, and not just on the internet.

Golbeck illustrated this concept with the following true story:

A man called up his local Target, furious they’d sent maternity and baby ads to his teenage daughter. Months later, he called the manager back to apologize—apparently Target’s algorithm discovered her pregnancy before she shared the news with her family.

Moral of the story? Even seemingly inconsequential data can provide scary insight into our lives.

Think Twice

Now more than ever, it’s important to understand what data is out there and how it’s being used. For consumers, that means understanding privacy policies and thinking twice about the cost of convenience. For businesses, it means understanding the data you have and the legal and ethical liability of processing it. While there’s no stepping back from this golden age of analytics, people are finally asking questions about how their data’s being used. Are you—and your business—prepared to answer?

As a content and events specialist at ZL, I work to bring the glamorous allure of information governance to the world. As a native Virginian and temporary Tennessean turned Californian, I’m permanently fascinated by life on the west coast. Although I miss SEC football and four distinct seasons, I’m in love with redwood forests and bubble tea on every corner.