The data dilemma: changing the privacy landscape post pandemic

The ongoing pandemic is upending life for many of us.  Its ultimate impact – beyond lives tragically cut short, jobs lost, and savings decimated – will take some time to understand. Data analytics is playing a critical part in the battle against the pandemic and its role is set to grow further as we adjust to these unprecedented circumstances. However, as we see the benefits of big data insights, we must not ignore the associated risks.

For the private sector, this means expanding digital footprints of consumers. Social distancing measures are resulting in dramatically increased online activity, taxing the capacity of networks to adjust.  This will of course in the short-term result in much more social media usage, online searching, news viewing and online purchases. But it’s also reasonable to conclude that such activity will become sticky, both because people will become acculturated to more online engagements (e.g., people learning to embrace online workouts from the comfort of their homes vs. fitness clubs and people purchasing clothes online vs. taking crowded mass transit to busy city streets and bustling stores). The net result will be dramatically enhanced digital footprints for all of us that the tech behemoths will want to mine for valuable insights, allowing them to more effectively target customers and enhance their offerings. And this temptation will be all the greater if a massive and deep recession takes root, making the identification of prime customers and the upselling to them all the more critical as disposable income dwindles.

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