For tech journalist Robert Scoble, new technology is not about privacy loss—it’s about utility. Along with coauthor Shel Israel, Scoble has written Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data, and the Future of Privacy. The book explores how sensors, wearables, social, data, and location-based technology are shaping the technology some of us are already using.
But not everyone is eager to adopt new devices and services, which is creating what Scoble refers to as the new digital divide. Whereas before the digital divide was between those who could afford technology like computers and those who could not, this new divide is between people who are all in when it comes to technology and those who are all out.
Getting past the period of friction
There are products for people on both sides of the fence, Scoble explains, citing Snapchat as a direct response to Facebook’s more public platform. Users on Snapchat can control who sees what, allowing for less drama as to who liked whose Facebook post and why.
Scoble believes people will adopt technology when there’s the right risk/benefit balance. There’s always a period of friction where we resist new technology, he explains. People freak out from media reports. But he believes people eventually adopt it because they see the utility in it. And it can help more than it can hurt you.
As he has written, “Figuring out where the freaky line is one of a product designer’s top jobs in 2014 (and really this falls on corporate leadership in the CEO and CMO office, which increasingly will gain power of the IT budgets in the future, I believe).”
Earning consumer trust
But while Scoble firmly believes we’ll always (eventually) adopt new technology, he also believes consumers need to have more control over their own data to thereby control the consequences in our always-surveilled world.
There are 3 things he believes companies should be doing to earn customer trust:
- “Be transparent with your data. Disclose everything you are doing to gather data.”
- Be correctable. “Make data correctable,” says Scoble, citing the fact that an app he once used kept giving him recommendations related to golf. He hates golf—but lives on a golf course.
- “Let people shut it off,” Scoble says. “And/or remove the consequences of studying their data that they may want to keep private.”
By following these three steps, Scoble believes, companies can minimize the risk that consumers are undertaking, while maximizing the utility of the products.
This post is part of our ongoing coverage of Microsoft Research and its Visiting Speaker Series. Microsoft Research supports its mission to educate and foster innovation and growth through inviting authors and speakers that inspire big ideas, spark new ways of doing things, or help people see things from a new perspective.