Online Trust Issues
Do you trust your internet? I’m not talking about the reliability of your provider or the stability of your connection; I would imagine you’ve gotten your network tuned to perfection having needed to be all virtual the last few years. The trust I’m referring to is more so between you and the apps you use: how you interact with them and the frequency at which it happens. Again, your internet, because it can be drastically different than the one I connect to everyday. My internet is intentionally mine; it’s specifically curated so that each time I’m on I am guaranteed a bespoke experience with the apps I enjoy and need to be productive. But even with that, I still don’t trust my internet.
What about you and yours? It’s odd to imply that they’re different because technically there’s only one internet; but unfortunately, it is extremely siloed, disjointed and centralized. But it’s actually designed that way. Those characteristics including centralization are not flaws but rather features of Web 2.0. It was architected to allow user contribution but not user control; in fact, most online platforms take advantage of that control to keep you confined to a version of the internet you think is yours but is actually theirs. So for all of the customization I have implemented in my internet, as much as I think it’s controlled by me, even more of it is not. That’s one of the reasons for my trust issues.
The other reasons? Well, my data privacy concern and, once I’m past that, the lack of transparency over the sharing of my personal information gets me next. Apparently, I’m not alone though, according to some research I did on social logins. For those unfamiliar with the term “social login,” it is the tool that allows you to access apps or sites using your favorite social media account. Social logins account for 70% of how Gen Zs authenticate and initiate interactions with other apps online.
So why is data privacy and transparency not a guarantee? Shouldn’t it be the standard? I should be able to openly connect to what I thought was my internet, but instead there’s this weird role reversal where I now feel like I’m the untrustworthy one, having to sneakily move around trying to not get caught or maneuver like a fugitive trying to evade the law. It shouldn’t be like this; it’s what I imagine being on the lam is like: having to move in silence, browse privately in incognito mode, opt out of cookies and disable tracking just so anything I say or do isn’t used against me in the form of unsolicited digital advertising or out of fear that it will influence my opinion. Is this the way it feels for you and your internet?
We’ve always been skeptics of the internet, but it has never been a deterrent because we’ve been conditioned to believe that to exist in this digital world and have some sort of digital presence, we must relinquish our personal data. It is table stakes, a concept that we normalized. That is, until attackers started to exploit these data dependencies and data breaches became widespread and more frequent. Social networks became prime targets in this new, almost entirely digital era, where online identity is the most valuable item on the internet. This has made these platforms profile-data goldmines. What makes it worse is that the social networks know how valuable profile data is, and they themselves exploit it, at the expense of you, your personal data and your privacy.
So now, because of all this, we’ve lost faith in our internet. I can’t blame you for not trusting the internet; it’s obvious why, but it’s also because I’ve learned to not blame myself for the same distrust. But you and I aren’t completely absolved here. We should take some onus of responsibility because, as we’ve all learned, trust is a two-way street that is either reinforced or weakened over time.
As users, I think we should take a more active role in protecting our personal data online, and that includes holding our respective internets accountable. That accountability should be demanded from the apps and other online service providers, making them liable for their bad practices and pressuring them to implement less-intrusive ones and, if they don’t, take away your usership. There’s a difference between saying you’re sorry and actually taking the necessary steps to show and prove remorse.
Regardless, these trust issues are starting to feel like sorry just isn’t going to cut it.
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This is a content marketing post from a Forbes EQ participant. Forbes brand contributors’ opinions are their own.