How to get the public to care about GDPR

Photo by ev on Unsplash

GDPR comes into force this month and as organisations, we are all busying ourselves making sure we are compliant. But will it make any difference to the behaviour of the public in relation to their personal data? Do we realise how important it is to be digitally healthy?

Looking at current consumer reactions, I’d say it’s a pretty resounding ‘no’.

The Cambridge Analytica affair has led to global headlines and mass media coverage with some businesses and activists coming off Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg had to apologise both personally and publicly.

Alongside this, government departments are running campaigns reminding people of their rights and how to request their data.

Notwithstanding all this noise and activity, the general public just don’t appear to be leaving Facebook in droves and perhaps more importantly they (myself included) don’t appear to be taking back control of their data, as is their right.

Behavioural targeting is legal and valuable both to us as consumers and business – showing us the perfect sofa or the dream holiday, for example. But there’s a sinister side that has muddied the water – when this data is used in less transparent ways to create highly targeted political advertising. The IPA is taking a leadership stance in calling for a moratorium on the latter.

But the misuse goes way beyond political advertising. Chief executive of Google offshoot Jigsaw Jared Cohen’s commentary on the threat of synthetic armies, fake news, and toxic trolls is scarily eye opening. Government doesn’t have the resources to solve these problems. The tech industry has a massive role to play and the research Jigsaw is undertaking and the internet tools it is developing to combat these and make the internet safer are to be lauded. But what can we as individuals do to keep ourselves safe?

To continue to reap the benefit, minimise the risk and prevent the harm from sharing data, AI and the likes, we all need to recognise that our digital health is as important as our physical health. And just as you would monitor and look after the latter, we must now recognise the importance of safeguarding the former – getting people to care about their digital health and helping to protect the most vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.

The Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted research into how changes in digital life will impact people’s overall wellbeing physically and mentally over the next decade. While 47% predicted that individuals’ wellbeing will be more helped than harmed by digital life in the next decade, 32% said people’s wellbeing will be more harmed than helped.

If we want to make sure those 32% of respondents are wrong we must first get people to care about the safety of their digital health.

There are lessons we can learn from health promotion and disease prevention. Making changes such as stopping smoking, improving diet, increasing physical activity, losing weight and reducing alcohol consumption can help people significantly reduce their risk of disease and help to achieve long-term health.

Campaigns such as Active 10, Stoptober and act FAST in the case of stroke have successfully changed behaviour and built a positive habit. These campaigns make it Easy – simplifying the guidance and using heuristics; Attractive – being clear on the benefits; Social – making it shareable; and Timely – reminding people at the point of influence and behaviour change.

In the absence of such a campaign for digital health, here is my suggestion of a memorable acronym for getting in touch with our digital selves and taking better care of our digital health – simply CLICK:

Check your data, privacy and security settings

Lock up safe with strong passwords

Implement frequent software updates

Clear and deactivate old accounts

Keep your personal data off social

You’d think twice before sharing a drink with a stranger, so you should think carefully before sharing your personal data with a person or company. But the general public haven’t been doing this, nor have the companies who have access to their data. This is what GDPR is for. This is why you should care.

So, CLICK ‘now’, don’t click ‘later’.

Jane Asscher is chief executive and founding partner at 23red

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