Many of us do not surprises. Almost all of us do not like negative surprises. This applies to surprise parties, to car break downs, and yes, our data. Most of us have the expectation that our personal data (as defined by us) is kept safe, secure, and not shared by the organisations (for profit, not for profit, government, etc.) who collect and hold data about us. This feels like a reasonable expectation.

Sometimes we’re surprised to learn our data is being used in research or by the organisations to ‘improve’ their services or products. Legally there likely was some box we ticked or some fine print we didn’t read that was our ‘consent’ for the organisations to use our data in this way. And for most of us, we lean to the side of being at ease with this.

And then it happens. Then we notice that everytime we google a product, we start seeing advertisements for that same product on every website we visit. And then we are walking by a supermarket and we receive a text from said supermarket asking us if we have made packed lunches for our kids tomorrow or that the amount of milk in the fridge at home is low. We receive in the post vouchers for nappies because we are pregnant. And then the only way to purchase something in a shop or online you need to be signed up to their ‘loyalty’ scheme or have created an account. Of course, you are told it is for your benefit, but in reality the benefit is almost entirely for the organisation.

And then imagine for a moment, being a refugee fleeing from violence and persecution, from your home, your community, your country and being in a foreign land. Kind aid workers tell you they will help you, but first you need to give them lots of personal information about you, your children, your elderly parent you are caring for. They tell you it will help them and other organisations assist you. So you give them what they want because you are tired, hungry, and a bit desperate.

And then it happens. Random people and organisations visit you and seem to know all kinds of personal details about you. They ask deeply personal questions in front of others shaming you. And months later, you learn all your personal information including the location of where you currently are has been shared with the government you were fleeing from.

That is not a surprise anyone wants to have.

This is one of the many reasons we need to shift to a people centred data management approach.

It is long overdue.

Photo by Xavi Cabrera


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