Living in a Privacy-First World: An Introduction

Reading the title of this piece probably leaves you with one main question: what does a privacy-first world actually mean? And why should I care about it?

The best way to think of privacy-first is by taking a leaf out of the cybersecurity book and considering the concept of privacy by design. This is a framework that seeks to proactively embed privacy into the design specifications of information technologies, networked infrastructure and business practises, thereby achieving the strongest protection possible. Or to break down all of that jargon, it’s about ensuring the user’s data is robustly protected in every single circumstance.

Why is a Privacy-First World both Good & Bad?

From a consumer perspective, privacy by design – and by extension privacy-first world is great! It means more data protection rights and less ‘stealth’ tracking by companies. Although cookies might sound appealing, in practise they are just invitations to extract and harness data. If you heard a website using data mining rather than ‘cookies’, people would hesitate before blindly clicking accept. IDFA targeting – which has been problematic in the past – relies solely on data provided by cookies. For Facebook, IDFA targeting was worth approximately $1.5 billion in 2018 and this figure has steadily climbed in recent years. A privacy-first world would have huge ramifications on IDFA targeting as it will become a lot less precise. This means that companies can no longer rely purely on this information for setting ad placements or selecting ads to serve in rotation for recommendation to users.

The regularity of data breaches has sped up the adoption of a privacy-first world.The Roadmap to a Privacy-First World

The rapid push towards a Privacy-First world should not surprise anyone. Increasingly, people are becoming more concerned about how their data is used. In just five years, we’ve had the following:

  • iOS IDFA Scandal
  • Facebook Cambridge Analytica Scandal
  • Twitter data breaches affecting millions of users
  • The California voting scandal

Customers are starting to vote with their feet and boycott brands that aren’t taking their privacy seriously. Resultantly, brands are getting left out of pocket causing them to finally act. iOS 14 is a great example of this. The new software by Apple has introduced many measures to try and push a privacy-first approach. Some of the most innovative measures to create a privacy-first world include:

  • Users have to now actively opt-in every single time Apple or an app on the Apple store requests to track their data
  • Users have full access to website and app tracking reports telling them who is tracking what, how they are tracking this data and what is being tracked.
  • Security ‘nutrition’ labels detailing what information applications collect on their users and the level of detail they collect, represented by green (minimal), amber (moderate) and red (information or detail-heavy) labels
  • Password monitoring alerts that automatically inform the user when their password is involved in a data breach

The Future?

iOS 14 is only the beginning when it comes to creating a privacy-first world. Already we’ve seen GDPR laws come into play in England. Similar legislation has been created in the EU and the USA. Later in 2021, applications will be required to ask for tracking permissions. This will lead to huge disruption initially as advertisers flock to change the way they measure and attribute performance on mobile and on desktop. 3rd-party tools like Facebook Pixel could become obsolete as people refuse to accept the tracking. By 2023, all major website browsers including Google Chrome and Safari will end cookie support for data tracking too.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at how a privacy-first world could affect businesses, the potential utopia and doomsday scenarios involved with each one, and how your business can successfully plan to market and advertise effectively within a privacy-first world.