The Price Of Your Name

Solving the Data Privacy issue of today and tomorrow

Photo by Burst from Pexels

Uttering “No Thank you. Please don’t call me again” has become as common for me as greeting Good Morning.

Offers of Credit Card and Pre-approved loans seem to get extended easily enough irrespective of whether I need or want it or not.

What (doesn’t) surprises me is how many people have access to my phone number and name. And if they know my phone number, what’s the probability that no one out in the world knows my bank details or my credit card number.

The thought scares me as it should.

When I try to think who all have access to my number, I wasn’t surprised at the realization that phone numbers are basically given away — in the supermarket where we shop, when we apply for jobs, or when we get a new license. Our basic assumption that our data is safe with folks we give it to could apparently be not any more wrong.

Stories of data breaches are so common that folks scroll over the news claiming billions of data points stolen from the company you trusted with your data.

At the very least seemingly unimportant details like name and location could have been exposed, but till it hits your face through an incident it is easy to gauge the depth of the data stored and discount the impact it could have on you.

If the companies that are the subject of the news are those I interact with daily — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, it would not be surprising if someone out there has the data of every click made, every scroll halted, and everybody and everything ever talked.

Announcement of stolen data and proclamation that data will be monitored somehow affects us differently. One is news and distant while the other reeks of intrusiveness and privacy invasion and calls for WhatsApp boycott and abandonment.The current news in the series is the latest (and once more) data breach at Facebook. Answers are being sought. It is currently unknown, for sure what data was stolen and how current it is.

But that’s the story of just data breaches — when an entity intentionally exploits the security vulnerability of a company and steals data.

How about companies giving away data by design?

Let’s talk about Product and Design for a moment.

With the ease of sending money using just a phone number, GooglePay has now become an integral part of life. Be it a small vendor sitting on the roadside serving cups of tea or shops in big malls, all are open to using Google Pay as the mode of payment. I can use the Product to pay for the Auto I just took to go to the metro station.

But here’s the funny part. The person on the receiving end now has my name, and phone number available for eternity. It is not impossible to sell the same or use it for harassment. Is data breach so common and the value of data so low that privacy is no longer a concern in the design?

Who Does Stolen Data Impact?

It’s a fact that we, the users, get heavily impacted by the loss of our data, or even our data in the wrong hands has the potential to cause drastic loss. Unfortunately most companies we trust our data with neither provide us the details of how it is used nor feel accountable and responsible for the same.

History is full of companies who have mismanaged their data and have either gotten away with it or paid amounts in fines that are entirely inconsequential to their accounts.

If you consider your data to be included in all these data breaches, and there has been a fine paid for the same, the collective price of your data would not exceed 20–30$ for perpetual use.