How to deal with privacy in a digital age

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Statement of our CEO, Christian Connolly.

The ethics of data is not a binary

Google realised it early on when adopting their tagline “Don’t be evil”. Having control over a vast amount of data will mean a vast amount of power in the hands of one company. In a position of power, it is paramount to use that power for the greater good for people. In 2022, that tagline has never been more relevant as the debate is oftentimes portrayed as binary. Either a company is good and collects no data or a company is bad (or evil) because it collects data. But the debate should be more nuanced. Collecting data, in itself, is not automatically a breach of personal integrity. The important debate should be about companies’ purpose of data collection and their transparency around it.

User control is central

A central point to consider when it comes to data privacy is to give all the control to the user. If it is clear exactly what data is stored where and that this data can be deleted or edited it is usually no problem for users. At Twiceme, we make safety equipment like helmets smart which allows for storage of important information. This can be of great importance in an accident situation. For our users, we have not seen any problems with privacy since it is always up to the user how much or how little information they upload to their equipment. Beyond that, it is also locally stored and not connected to any cloud which is important since it also gives a full overview of the data that has been uploaded. It is not sent to any third party or stored in a cloud that can be hacked. It is in the equipment and in the equipment only.

Transparency builds trust

The other key point is about being transparent. If a user can make an informed decision on whether or not sharing data can lead to something that benefits the user, it takes away that uneasy feeling. If companies are transparent about who benefits from the data and if full information is available around the decision, users tend not to have a problem with the privacy of data.

Again, relating to what we do at Twiceme, privacy is less of an issue since it is easy to weigh alternatives. As the technology in safety equipment stores information that is verified by professional rescuers to be of help if an accident occurs, it is easy to make a choice. On the one hand, if I upload information to my equipment, it will be made open and available. On the other hand, if something happens to me this information could lead to faster or better actions in that scenario. The choice between not providing data and losing the benefit, and providing data and getting the benefit is clear and completely in the hands of the user.

Anonymity is good, offline is great

Speaking of Google, the company, along with many other tech giants, are facing the fact that storing third party data in databases is becoming increasingly difficult. That is why many marketeers today are seeking real relationships with their users and aiming to collect consented first party data.

Another way to deal with the third party storage issue is to store anonymous data in clouds. This is what the recent updates to google analytics have enabled at the expense of granularity of data. A final way to meet this challenge is to not store any data in a cloud at all. At Twiceme we have done the latter. Either way, the reality is that companies are facing laws like GDPR and HIPAA and few strategies today can be based around collecting third party non-consented data in clouds.

Why collect data at all?

So why don’t we just stop with all the data? Well, many technical and societal advances are completely reliant on handling data of different kinds. Information is a source of power and progress in today’s world. The example that we at Twiceme face on a daily basis is a scenario where a fellow skier, biker or construction co-worker is unconscious. Being able to access info about the person can be absolutely crucial for what happens next. And time is of the essence. In this situation, if you were the unconscious one, would you rather have info available or not? The point is that information can be and is enormously helpful in a wide range of scenarios. So privacy is good when privacy is due.

What do we make of this?

As we all adapt to a society where data is everywhere and aggregators of data become increasingly powerful it is extremely important to collect data in a responsible way. That means giving the user full control of their own data, showing them exactly where and how their data is used and finally giving them a clear and informed choice between the consequences of sharing the information or not.

The important part today is not just to avoid being evil, as google put it, it is increasingly about being transparent and giving full control to the user. For us at Twiceme, this means giving full control to the user, being fully transparent with what the information is used for and collecting all personal information completely offline, locally stored in your protective equipment to help you when it matters the most.