The term data octopus, which – generally with an evil grin – scoops up the data of innocent citizens, has become a widespread bogeyman. Apart from various secret services, the large social media and mobile communications providers in the USA are considered data octopuses. However, there is a fundamental difference between the two groups. No one would voluntarily hand over data to the first group, but this is by no means the case with second group.
But what makes people so generous with their data with Facebook, Google, Apple and co. There is no shortage of warnings – the press is continually warning people about posting pictures of children. Whole generations are ruining their career opportunities with their photos at parties in their youth. Smart devices and the internet of things are powering the data flow, smart products scatter data everywhere. They generate data continuously during use, which are then required to be able to offer new smart solutions. The question of to whom the data belong is a key question in the complete field of Industry 4.0 and the internet of things.
Wouldn’t it be useful to learn from Facebook, Apple, Google and co.? By now it should be obvious to all users that companies use data voluntarily given to them for their own profit. Even so, the number of users is not falling and there are no waves of indignation and terminations of accounts. Why? Because it appears that people are satisfied with the service that they receive for their payment – which is in the form of information over themselves. The need to remain in contact with friends and to communicate is greater than the fear of how Facebook collects data.
As always in life, it comes down to the cost-benefit ratio. People weigh – consciously or unconsciously – the benefits they receive from the services and what information they have to submit to receive the benefits. They also consider how the information is used. A service like Google, which uses my data to display personalized advertising, is viewed more positively than a secret service, which certainly has more sinister motives.
Thus, if information is wanted, two things are required: added value for the user and trust. The generally good image of German industry can be rated as positive in this context. For example, the German vehicle industry does not have a negative image in comparison with the American companies named above. When considering the autonomous vehicle and its data, this can be a great advantage for Daimler and BMW compared to Google. And mechanical engineers should also not feel that they are in a secure position. Android and iOS operating systems are already available for cars – why shouldn’t Google develop “Android for machining centers” if the market or the resulting data prove to be interesting enough?
Today German industry has the opportunity to reduce the lag behind the American internet giants, at least in the field of business. Even in countries like the USA, where information privacy has never been a major topic, the question of who owns a person’s information is becoming more prominent. A company that can offer solutions with a positive answer to the cost-benefit calculation will be in a good position. And these considerations do not apply only to consumers but also to companies.
Dipl.-Ing. Ralf Steck