Peak

If data is the new oil…

All of these oil/data comparisons have got me thinking: when will peak data come? Peak data is not the point in which data production will peak, as that may never happen. 

Peak data (my definition at least) is the point where companies ability to collect data on users peaks. With the backlash against tech companies and proposed privacy legislation, companies could be forced to scale back their data collection. Peak data could only be years away.


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Why do I think this? First, politics. 
Government regulations, such as GDPR, are the first indicators of peak data . An analysis done by Reuters shows third party cookies across 200 EU websites dropped by an average of 22% since the introduction of GDPR. A separate analysis by Goldberg et al. (2018) shows page views, conversions and third party tracking all fell by 7-13 % after GDPR. The future outlook doesn’t look better. Cookie data should fall even further once the ePrivacy Regulation is amended to GDPR, which makes it easier for users to block all cookies.

Data crackdown comes to the US
The US is behind the EU in passing laws for data privacy, but the next few years will change. Instead of one sweeping legislation, there are over 164 bills in the current congress related to data privacy. Some of the highlights include:

American Data Dissemination Act
Balancing the Rights Of Web Surfers Equally and Responsibly Act
Information Transparency & Personal Data Control Act
Privacy Bill of Rights Act
Social Media Privacy Protection and Consumer Rights Act
California Consumer Privacy Act

The act with the best acronym: Digital Accountability and Transparency to Advance Privacy Act, or know as the DATA Privacy Act.

Most of these bills have a common theme: the right for consumers to opt out of data collection and tracking. Some bills give consumers the ability to remove themselves from third party data broker lists. Not all of these bills will pass, but its important to note these bills have bipartisan support. 

Second, companies push privacy
Privacy was a major point of Apple’s 2019 WWDC, with the biggest news being Apple created their own version of a single sign on.  The new single sign on will generate a random email address when you download an app, which means app developers can’t link your email and sell this data to third parties. Apple is also allowing users to limit the information it shares with apps, such as letting users share location once, instead of forever.

There’s also Facebook - and it could all be for show - but the company did push privacy at its F8 developer conference in April. The company wants to be a “privacy-focused communications platform.” Whether or not they actually live up to that is debate, but they are putting encryption as default for all messenger platforms.

What should companies do?
If peak data is true, preparations should be made. Companies should start looking at their data assets and assign probabilities to data assets no longer being available. If a data source is labeled as high probability of becoming unavailable, but very important, companies could build models to replicate the data. Another solution would be developing strategies to prevent customers from opting out. 

Of course, I could be wrong
The large number of data breaches and hacks hasn’t done anything to stop data collection and people are indifferent. But if consumers start taking notice, companies will have to work very hard to provide experiences good enough for consumers that they will continue to allow them to collect data, or consumers may question why they have this data.

Peak oil predictions have always been wrong, but let’s hope peak data fares better.