Privacy and digital reputation: Five predictions for 2011
- Michael Fertik is the CEO and Founder of ReputationDefender, the online privacy and reputation company. The views expressed are his own. -
Digital reputation and privacy literally became the stuff of legend and movies this year (WikiLeaks, The Social Network). But stay tuned for 2011: we are going to see more dramatic shakeouts in the commercial, personal, and governmental spheres. The central question is whether the public, business community, and policymakers will come to grips with the many fault lines of digital control of information or if they will either pretend that it’s not a problem or that tiny, incremental steps are real solutions.
Here are some concrete predictions for the year:
1. “Reputation Manager” appears as a title at 25 Fortune 500 companies.
Reputation and privacy are positioned to overtake malware and virus as the biggest threats to corporate digital security. WikiLeaks is said to have 2,000 mirror sites operating. Leakers are on the march. Not only are the reputations of companies vulnerable to all the would-be Assanges of the world, any employee or customer with a mobile phone can do equal damage (evidence: Domino’s employee nose pick). In today’s news-driven environment, where anyone can be a broadcaster, companies must understand the strategic advantage of proactively building and maintaining a bulletproof corporate reputation, which will include the reputation and privacy of its employee and commercial secrets.
2. You get a dollar value assigned to your online reputation and to your personal information online.
We’ve been operating under the misconception that we’re getting a free lunch online. While “free-use”, advertising-based web businesses would have you believe this is true, it ain’t. When the service is free online, YOU are the product. Companies digitize, analyze and then buy and sell your personal and behavioral information online, making you the commodity. As this becomes clearer, users will demand control of their own digital reputation and privacy economy. First, we’ll see the development of personal digital scores that use our online information to rate our health, employability, financial index, romantic connection and so on.
Personal information online will also have a dollar value. We’ll be able to decide whether or not we want to make our information available or not, and we’ll receive an assigned dollar value based on our “reputation score.” Think of it as a FICO credit score, only much more data-rich and pervasive but equally (or perhaps more) susceptible to error.
3. Mobile will overtake desktop/laptop as the top source of private data threat.
In 2010, 10.9 billion mobile apps were downloaded. Experts are saying that will nearly double every year. The industry is booming, data miners are beaming, and it’s a horror show for consumers. Data miners have made millions compiling and selling consumers’ online information, and now they’re turning to your phone, iPad, Tablet, Kindle and the next whizbang tool to scrape up even more data. The massive growth of smartphones will give birth to an explosion of Smart Mobile Viruses. Together with the virality of social media, mobile malware will be combustion itself.
4. Insurance companies are discovered to be reviewing your social data.
We’ve seen hints of it already: insurance companies are researching social media data for premium and coverage purposes. This trend will only grow. It should overtake behavioral ad targeting as the most-discussed threat arising from abuse of personal digital data. The commercial incentives for the insurance industry to mine the details of people’s lives are extremely powerful: the more they know, the more they can deny, preemptively terminate, or charge more for your coverage.
5. Facial Recognition Tools 1.0 go mainstream.
The cat’s out of the bag: facial recognition is getting smarter at a geometric rate. It’s almost ready for primetime. Remember that photo you didn’t tag so that it wouldn’t be associated with your name? Get ready, Susie: it’s coming back to haunt you. Search engines are basically still text-based. That’s about to change. And it’s going to change your life.