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Insights & Trends 4 min read

The next wave of privacy could be Privacy as a Service.

The next wave of privacy could be Privacy as a Service.

More connected devices in consumers’ lives means more concerns over personal privacy. A new way to control your data may be on the horizon: Privacy As A Service.

Have you ever heard of NameDrop? It’s a new social media platform.

In paragraph 2.3.1 of NameDrop’s terms of service, users are required to give up their first born in exchange for joining. That’s not a joke. Neither is the fact that every person signing up agreed.

Fortunately, Namedrop doesn’t exist. It was used in a joint university study of what depth people go into when they agree to terms on digital devices.

The intent was not to scare people (though that was surely accomplished), but rather to illustrate that a new paradigm for personal digital privacy is long overdue.

Trust in an autonomous world

Admit it: you rarely (if ever) read the terms and conditions you agree to when you download an app. You’re not alone.

But with Cisco predicting in excess of 50 billion connected devices by 2020—and exponentially more apps and services featured on those devices—the already immense number of terms consumers already agree to will skyrocket.

If we don’t read the Terms & Conditions on our bank’s app, we surely won’t read those of our lightbulbs, stoves or cars. And that’s a problem.

It’s not because people don’t care. Personal privacy is clearly a concern, especially if you consider that more Americans fear identity theft than terrorism. It’s just that managing one’s privacy is complicated, burdensome and filled with indecipherable legalese.

In the coming age filled with billions of connected devices, the privacy burden will only increase. But a few experts have expounded on a new idea that might just be the key to managing privacy in the coming autonomous world

Privacy as a service

In their article Privacy in the Age of Autonomous Vehicles, Ivan Sucharski (Lead Data Strategist, HERE North America) and Philip Fabinger (Global Privacy Counsel, HERE Deutschland) discuss the concept of “Privacy as a Service.”

Instead of taking the time and effort to pour through and understand every agreement, consumers could subscribe to a service, not unlike a virus protection plan. It would be managed by a trusted third-party or non-profit—and allow consumers control over their privacy and data, even as the number of digital entities they interact with and depend on increases.

As a service, it could occur in real-time so the consumers can benefit from the immediacy and convenience the autonomous world offers while feeling secure in the knowledge that they are not handing over their privacy for the sake of convenience.

Permission at every turn

Beyond terms, there is consent. Legislation like the General Digital Protection Regulation (GDPR) will protect consumers’ privacy by mandating that informed consent be provided every time their information is shared.

Trouble is, this can mean a lot of interruptions when using your smartphone to navigate in an evolving digital world. If your express permission is needed each time you interact with a connected device, your day could be eroded away with selecting Yes/No to use connected services.

As Philip Fabringer recently pointed out, an advanced digital world should enable people to enjoy seamless, uninterrupted services.  This could be another area for a privacy service: acting on your behalf, based on your wishes, to grant appropriate permissions to the connected world around you.

The future of privacy

As the authors of Privacy in the Age of Autonomous Vehicles state, the “future of digital privacy depends on returning control to users in a respectful, sane and manageable way tailored to the new realities of advanced services.”

So while you might think twice before granting access to your phone’s camera or microphone—or wonder why a sudoku app wants to access your contacts—tomorrow your solution may be as simple as subscribing and setting your overall privacy preferences so every digital interaction abides by your wishes. Now wouldn’t that be convenient? Just be sure to read the terms and conditions before subscribing.

Haydn Sweterlitsch

Haydn Sweterlitsch

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