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Privacy Perspectives | The Shifting Privacy Mindset: From “Nobody Cares” to a Top Tech Trend Related reading: A Look at 2015’s Emerging Tech Trends


At the 2012 Online News Association conference, one of the most highly attended sessions was Webbmedia Group CEO Amy Webb’s 10 Tech Trends for 2012. Three years ago, the top trends Webb pointed to included consumers’ distrust of the media (it was campaign time, after all); dynamic pricing and content based on behavioral tracking; wearable tech, and ambient social networks that listen in on social media and allow users to know who around them is posting.

Being that many of these trends involved data collection, use and analysis, I had to ask the question: “I work for a trade association for data protection,” I said, what about the privacy issues with this stuff?

Actually, we’ve got the video. Click the image and fast forward to 47:44:


As you can see, Webb responded, graciously acknowledging that my question was a good one, and then shut. me. down.

“Older people seem to be concerned about their data. The overwhelming number of people using this stuff have no perception. They’re growing up in a time where they don’t understand the distinction between public and private … Now may be a good time for you guys to pivot,” she said, holding her hand out to me as though offering up a gem of knowledge and added with a smirk, “… potentially.”

Three years later, with 10,000 more members and growing every day, I’d just like to say, “we’re good, thanks.” [insert smirk here]

That said, she wasn’t wrong in her data. Study after study was coming out in support of her theory that only old people cared about privacy. In fact, she was more right than any of us could have guessed: “Something may happen at some point for them to suddenly have those fears, but for right now, the people who are coming up and using the stuff are not in that situation.” Nailed it.

Three years and an Edward Snowden later, Webb is the one who has pivoted. She has just released The Tech Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2015 in the Harvard Business Review, outlining six of her top trends. Much to my satisfaction, data privacy has made the list.

Citing a Ponemon study that shows 91 percent of Americans think consumers have lost control of their personal information and their data, she notes, “Whether it’s fear of a third party monitoring our mobile phone activity or concern about the safety of online transactions, people are increasingly concerned about their privacy, and they’re pointing the finger at business, not maleficent hackers.”

Glad to see you’re staying on trend, Amy.

Oh, and one more thing she nailed in 2012: The importance of women in technology.

photo credit: jimmywayne via photopin cc


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  • comment David • Jan 7, 2015
    Nicely written, Emily, and great reinforcement following 2014, #The Year of the Hack ... I don't know anyone whose not concerned and confused by their personal, professional and corporate risk profile.  Evangelism ... and a few mega-breach headlines ... helps!
  • comment James • Jan 8, 2015
    Always appreciate a story with the teachable moment referencing the past with the present.  Thanks for tracking the trend difference between 2012 to 2015.
    As an internal regulator for a corporation (not yet working in Privacy, although studying it), I frequently run into thoughts like Amy's that fall short of a three-dimensional perspective.  Maybe the IAPP should pivot..., sure, let's tell the FTC or the Council of Europe were going to pivot because young people can be counted on to stay on trend as they age and never care about their data.  NOT!  I don't want to pick on Amy too hard, but rather highlight that Amy's perspective is a common short sight that highlights the value many of us as standard bearers bring to the table; the perspective and/or need to answer or respond to more than one stakeholder.  A demographic of people may not (yet) care about their data, but it doesn't mean they won't change.  And meanwhile our businesses and our governments, despite how our customers may feel, seek to manage by high standards and are beholden to rules, opinions, and methods of operating that desire exemplary behavior.  Cheers to everyone, including Amy, who educate those on the importance of their data and privacy.
  • comment Emily • Jan 8, 2015
    Thanks so much for the comments, David and James. It's great to see people with their finger on the pulse, like Amy, noticing the importance of privacy.