You wake up in the morning. Your digital watch tracks your sleep. Again, the first activity most people today do is to look up their phone. If you don’t have a digital watch, your phone tracks your sleep time. In a sleep deprived world, it may help us evaluate the quality of our rest periods.
You go for a walk. The same digital watch tracks whether you have walked, run, cycled, swam or worked out. In addition, it gives you a smile by measuring the number of calories burnt, steps walked, heart-beat range, cadence & many other metrics. If you are carrying your phone, the inbuilt apps in your phone tracks it. These mechanisms help you monitor the much-needed physical activity which is done throughout the day. In a world where health awareness is on the rise, these tools help you set goals and achieve those by monitoring progress.
You travel to work. Depending upon the mode of transport, GPS enabled devices track the distance travelled and time taken. They sometimes help you to reach the destination in the best possible manner and allow you to select the mode of transport or the route to be taken.
You make a digital payment. The chances of you using an Android based feature which populates your OTP on the payment site are high. The customer experience is amazing.
All of the above are picked from run of the mill activities done by millions of citizens daily. It provides customer delight, which comes to us through hyper personalisation based on AI & ML. They also bank upon the entire digital ecosystem, which is absorbing personal data and feeding the same from & to multiple stakeholders.
What is the concern then? If the intent is benign, the above can lead to customer delight. Enthusiasm to delight the customer in a highly competitive environment can however result in some part of the ecosystem making compromises, which infringe the privacy of an individual or an organisation. If the digital environment can read your messages, e-mails and use it to your benefit, there is delight and no damage done.
When the intent turns bad, the information available in the same messages & emails can be used to defraud the customer or the entity. Unfortunately, there is a large community which thrives in such criminal deeds. To prevent, detect and control them, there is a community which learns the tricks of the fraudulent activities to overcome them.
Data laws and implementation of the same are nascent as of now. The common man must constantly keep improving his/ her knowledge on data privacy for self-protection. An increasingly digital world also means that a lot of activities, which were done by a vendor are now executed by the customer themselves. Several awareness programmes run by regulators like IRDAI, SEBI, RBI and GOI are aimed at educating customers and we are likely to experience an increase in the intensity of these awareness initiatives in the foreseeable future.
As we move into an era where privacy becomes scarce, responsible behaviour, especially in social media, will emerge as a skill.
“If someone steals your password, you can change it. But if someone steals your thumbprint, you can’t get a new thumb. The failure modes are very different.” – Bruce Schneier, Security Guru.
Views expressed in the article are the personal opinion of Sundar Natarajan, Chief Risk Officer, IndiaFirst Life Insurance Company Ltd.