We face a constant barrage of requests for our personal information everyday, and more often than not our first concern is who has access to that information and how will it be used. At GigaOM’s Structure:Data conference on Wednesday, a panel of experts from the worlds of biology, location analytics and data science talked about how the concepts of personalization and privacy concerns don’t have to be at odds with each other. People will give up their personal information if you give them something they find personally valuable, Ken Chahine of Ancestry.com, Naveen Jain of Inome and David Shim of Placed agreed.
Just like people used to be afraid of browser cookies and their implications for privacy and now accept them as standard, Shim, Placed’s founder and CEO, said he believes our attitudes toward our location data will undergo the same transition once people understand the inherent value of what they’re getting back in exchange for what they’re giving up.
“Right now everyone’s afraid of [sharing] location … as people start to understand the benefit of sharing this kind of data it will start to become more open,” said Shim. “People won’t mind sharing data if you get something back in return. That perception will chagne over time.”
Jain, founder and CEO of Inome agreed: while some mothers may object in theory to location sharing for privacy reasons, if they were given the ability to know their young child’s exact location and whether they had arrived after walking to school, they may feel differently. Similarly, he noted that people will be willing to offer up even more personal information like DNA or medical histories if they know that the result is (someday) personalized medicine for people with specific genome types.
Chahine, who is SVP and General Manager of Ancestry.com’s DNA service, said he’s seen some of that with DNA. “People aren’t concerned about giving us their DNA,” he said. “They give us their DNA, we give them their result — and you won’t be surprised to learn — we don’t give them a generic result.” In other words, individuals get something out of it, the value of which is highest to them: who else they’re related to. That “value exchange” is crucial and what makes Ancestry.com customers comfortable handing over such personal information. And, he said, they’ll continue to do so “as long as we strike the right balance between privacy and personalization.”
Check out the rest of our Structure:Data 2013 live coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below: