Privacy as a service won’t work

Although some people might think that I support the “dark side” because my clients are only companies and not consumers I have always been advocating privacy. However, when I was asked, if I believe privacy is a USP or can be a distinguishing property I denied it, because my experience as data protection officer and data privacy lawyer was that consumer value convenience more than privacy. Additionally, in the past VCs rarely invested in companies with privacy as core business and CEOs preferred marketing expenses instead of privacy related expenses. Reading this article on IAPP website made me question my opinion.

I mean it had happened before that privacy oriented companies received a bunch of money, were supported officially or at least their work was appreciated. I could give you many examples but here are just a few:

Boxcryptor – cloud – encryption
Blackphone – phone- encryption
Wire – messaging – encryption
ZenMate – browser extension – encryption

I was and am still happy about any new article about new privacy products and companies. So don’t get me wrong.
However, where is the break-through? All the fuss about privacy! We have kind of a hype caused by the new EU General Data Protection Regulation and some legal proceedings (e.g. concerning Google, concerning Facebook) which are discussed publicly. But privacy is still a niche product and topic, right? I mean, ask your friends and colleagues? Why don’t they use privacy friendly or protecting services? Which behavior did they change because of the proceedings I mentioned above?

Let me guess: Just a few of them changed their behavior fundamentally, use encryption services now, changed their privacy settings or informed themselves about technologies, privacy etc..

In my opinion there are two main and cumulative reasons which are apparent if not blatant: User’s value convenience more than privacy and they lack knowledge about the basics of the Internet and related functionalities.

Consequently, Companies which understand how to explain what they do with data, create at least some kind of transparency and additionally provide convenience with their products will be the leading edge although they don’t focus on consumer’s rights but the company’s annual turnover.

So, any investment in privacy companies is awesome. But companies that “just” provide “privacy as a product” still have no “convenient product” and struggle with user’s ignorance. They will always work in a niche. Therefore, I don’t change my opinion but highly recommend any company not just to work on the product and related marketing but on privacy and the consumer’s education as well. “Do you suggest to tell them, what we really do with data and what our business purposes are?”
Yes, and not just for compliance reasons. If you want to be successful, you must!

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