Wearables, connected devices and the data they generate are increasingly beneficial to us in our everyday lives. Many don’t realize, however, that if Tim Cook isn’t able to stand his ground against the FBI’s request for Apple to create a backdoor into the iPhone’s iOS, it could spell disaster for not only big data, but the tech industry as a whole.
Wearables, connected devices and the data they generate are increasingly beneficial to us. Many don’t realize, however, that if Tim Cook isn’t able to stand his ground against the FBI’s request for Apple to create a backdoor into the iPhone’s iOS, it could spell disaster for not only big data, but the tech industry as a whole.
Historically, the data stored by companies or services we benefit from doesn’t get a second thought. To our knowledge, it is used to help us save money, become healthier and connect with others.
When Progressive introduced Snapshot in 2012, the company promised lower rates for customers that would allow their driving habits to be constantly monitored. This was done with data collected via a small device customers plugged into a data port on their vehicle. You might even have one. This data helps us save money.
The same is true in a new partnership between Vitality and John Hancock. You can get a reduction on your life insurance rates by allowing them to track your health habits via a FitBit and other reporting systems. FitBit itself is an example of how our data can help us become healthier.
Apple’s own iPhone has been tracking our daily habits for years, recording elevation, steps taken, and recording frequent locations we visitwhile Google tracks our activity around the Internet and Facebook tracks not only what we post, but what we view and even has personality profiles built around our activity and internally created personality profiles. This data helps us connect.
The companies we do business with have a staggering amount of data on us and our habits, but within the last few years, the tide started turning: 45 percent of U.S. consumers are more worried about their privacy online than last year, with a total of 92 percent of Americans saying they are worried about their privacy on the Internet.
What the heck happened? Research points to one critical point back in June of 2013: Edward Snowden. Love him or hate him, Snowden revealed just how much of this data was accessible to the federal government. Americans had realized just how exposed we were and results of this revelation has been alarming for companies that benefit off the data we share.
In the U.S., 91 percent of adults agree that consumers have lost control of how their personal information is collected and used by companies. The majority of Americans don’t trust online advertisers, search engines and social sites with their data, with a stunning 46 percent showing lack of confidence in their credit card companies’ ability to keep their data private and 54 percent in the U.S. government.
If you think this is some idle concern however, you’d be wrong. Americans are taking action and doing so in large numbers. Pew reports more than 86 percent of Americans are already taking efforts to limit their exposure and hide their activity online.
Contrary to popular belief, younger Americans are the ones leading the charge in hiding their online activities, with almost half refusing to use websites that require entering authentic details about themselves.
Combine all this with the fact that a very large majority of Americans are already sensitive about sharing their medical health, medications, and other personal data, and you can begin to see how delicate of a balance this situation is.
Apple defended its case in front of a House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, fresh off a victory in New York where a judge sided with their protection of another iPhone, but the opposition is still fierce. Politicians and even tech giant Bill Gates have also come out against Cook (later backpedaling).
The FBI request would give the master key to the federal government to unlock every iPhone. It’s not just about the terror suspect’s iPhone, Cook said on Apple.com, it’s about all iPhones. Indeed, The National Law Journal’s Michael Scarcella agreed on Twitter.
Americans have suspected they may have been monitored before, but if Apple loses, they will know for sure and that will spell disaster for big data and the tech industry. After all, knowing something is possible doesn’t necessarily change our activity because people only tend to act very differently knowing something is plausible vs. possible. Why is this?
Dan Ariely, New York Times best-selling author and professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, says this is known as the availability bias. The availability bias is also responsible for us only getting security systems when our neighbor is broken into.
How Apple and Cook handle the FBI’s request for unbridled access to every American’s iPhone could potentially make or break big data and the services that benefit. A very public loss could create a chain reaction where Americans retract their digital limbs like a turtle going back into its shell.
If Cook succeeds, however, this could be the confidence booster we all need. Success could open a floodgate of innovation. Welcome to the technology tipping point.
This article was originally printed in the Des Moines Register in March of 2016. You can read it here.
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