If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product… Let’s not do that.”
Phil Zimmerman, Creator, PGP
“What’s wrong with the current system is not that we are Google’s users; we are google’s product.”
Jacques Benkoski, Partner, USVP

As the data industry blazes ahead, few stop and think of the implications behind monetizing personal data. The VLAB panel from the October 15th privacy event represents the vanguard of those who fight for personal privacy.

But what’s wrong, exactly, with monetizing personal information? Why shouldn’t data of my every move find its way to organizations who cater to my wishes? And why shouldn’t government agencies access data to keep the public safe?

Privacy, or the non-disclosure of personal information, protects the weak from the strong. Privacy ensures greater freedom of speech and action; if corporations and governments don’t know what I say and do, they can’t control me. Privacy protects individuals from corporations who would exploit them.

But big data builds more enthusiasm these days than privacy; after all, big data makes so much more money…

Our panelists paint a picture of a less private, and less free, world
“It appears that the fourth amendment seems to stop when it’s involving digital communication… I’m wondering if privacy is moving from a right to a privilege… Even Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook, wants more privacy…Is
[privacy] something that should be afforded to everyone in our society?”

“My concern here is that the internet turns into a class system, where if you want privacy you need to have money.”

“The biggest threat to my family is that the internet is forever…Personally I think you’re stupid if you Skype. Don’t do that.” Read the privacy statement; they own your information… A backdoor for the the good guys 100% equals a backdoor for the bad guys.”

“When we collect customer data to monetize customer data, it becomes an attractive nuisance; it attracts governments who ask for that data…The patriot act was supposed to be a social contract to protect us from Al Qaida. [The author of the PA] said, “No no no. We’ve had the Patriot Act for a long time. 9.11 just gave us the political opportunity to use it.”‘

Convinced you want more privacy? Here’s what entrepreneurs can do:
Casey Oppenheimer alludes to the fact that Facebook makes about $5 per year on each user. So $5 should be about the cost per year to provide a private Facebook experience. We can create business that charge a small fee for privacy and information security.

Benkoski disagrees. He believes few people would pay for such services because such services currently exist, and few people use them.

Jack Yang of VISA argues rather for companies with a conscience. “My challenge to you as entrepreneurs, is that if you’re going to be collecting personal information, focus on providing real value to the consumer, and protecting their personal information as much as you can.”

You can take advantage of privacy software offerings listed below. I already have with fascinating effects. And then there’s the little things you can do. Zimmerman says, “”With my safeway card, when I’m in the checkout line, I sometimes trade it with the person standing behind me…”

Check out these privacy-oriented businesses:
myWickr.com provides military-grade encryption for mobile communications with privacy features.
Disconnect.me lets users block invisible tracking sites that follow them around the web.
SilentCircle.com encrypts communications between subscribers without storing any personal data.

Seth Rosenblatt – Senior Writer, CNET
Casey Oppenheim – Co-Founder, Disconnect.me
Nico Sell – Co-Founder and CEO, Wickr
Phil Zimmerman – Creator, PGP, and Co-Founder, Silent Circle
Jack Yang – Associate General Counsel, Global Privacy Office and Enterprise Risk, VISA
Jaque Benkoski – Partner, US Venture Partners

(Written by Eric McClellan, VLAB Marketing Committee Blogger. Eric coaches start-ups in UX design and external communications.)

Other Related VLAB Privacy Event Articles:

* Stay Private in a Public World with Self-Destructing Data App Wickr | 2013-OCT-15 The Dish Daily, Kasey Quon

* Increase Online Privacy – A Quick and Easy Guide | 2013-OCT-15 The Dish Daily, The Dish Daily Editorial Team