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Digital Identity New Zealand

The end of the Privacy Paradox?


As many people working in the digital identity, security and privacy spaces will know, the Privacy Paradox is the discrepancy between an individuals’ intentions to protect their privacy and how they actually behave in the online world.  The relationship between an individuals’ intentions to disclose personal information and their actual personal information disclosure behaviours, can often be very different.

Many surveys have shown that privacy is a primary concern for people across the globe in our digital age.  However, on the other hand large numbers of people freely divulge personal information in exchange for services and convenience, often for relatively small rewards such as interacting with others within a social network.

This inconsistency of privacy attitudes and privacy behaviour is often referred to as the Privacy Paradox – people expressing privacy concerns often fail to act in accordance with them.

There have been many explanations for the Privacy Paradox.  Examples being that people:

find it difficult to associate a specific value to their privacy and therefore, the value of protecting it

do not consider their personal information to be their own and might not appreciate the need to secure it

lack awareness of their right to privacy or privacy issues 

believe their desire for a fully personalised experience outweigh the potential risks from big tech companies using their data for profiling.

Others may have chosen to take it as a sign that, despite what people say, they really just don’t care about their privacy and have used it as an excuse to look at increasingly invasive methods for monetising personal data.

Well, hopefully as pointed out by Richard Bird, Ping Identity’s Chief Customer Officer at the Indentiverse conference in Denver a few weeks back, this later explanation ran into a seemingly solid dead end earlier this year, when with great fanfare (and strong disagreement from the likes of Facebook) Apple released iOS 14.5 and began enforcing App Tracking Transparency.

All being well, most people should now be aware that the latest release of iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV apps are required to request a user’s permission to track their activity across multiple apps for data collection and ad targeting purposes.

The early data is not looking good for app developers and advertisers who rely on targeted mobile advertising for revenue.  While the worldwide opt-in rate has been creeping up, as of 28 June (2 months into the release), it is still only at 17%.  The US only figure is even lower, at 9%.

So ultimately if people are now showing they do care about privacy when they are given the choice, why has the Privacy Paradox been so persistent over the last ten years or so?

Is it simply that to date people have really not had a choice?  Or perhaps more starkly, the only choice they have had was to not use a service at all?  Is the greatest example of “an offer you can’t refuse” the ACCEPT button on the Terms of Use page?

Hopefully we are now heading into a time when the Privacy Paradox will be no more. A time when people are offered a genuine choice about sharing their personal information. 

Ngā Mihi,

Michael Murphy

Executive Director

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Digital Identity New Zealand A purpose driven, inclusive, membership funded organisation, whose members have a shared passion for the opportunities that digital identity can offer. Digital Identity NZ supports a sustainable, inclusive and trustworthy digital future for all New Zealanders.