Millennium Post

Consumer-centric approach, privacy, and security is absolutely indispensable for digital businesses

Recently, one of the world's leading and widely used messenger app for smartphones has come under the scanner for making radical changes in their user terms of service and privacy policies. Much to everyone's dismay, the app, and its parent company has demonstrated a rather "take it or leave it" approach. The policy states that the messenger app will have complete independence to watch, monitor, and share user data as per their will and convenience, with third-party service providers - thereby posing a real threat to user's personal security and privacy. Further, the company has given a deadline of one month to users, to accept the new policy or delete their app account permanently.

This is worrisome at many levels as the diktat entails uninterrupted access to all types of personal information, such as transaction data, financial data on UPI, mobile device information, location information, IP addresses, service-related information, and other data on how users engage with businesses and other individuals. It could also be a combination of these features or even inferences drawn from the analysis of the available data. It's a privacy hegemony of sorts!

For India, this comes in at a time when the Government is planning to introduce a Personal Data Protection (PDP) legislation akin to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It broadly pivots around protective laws around storing consumer data, requesting for the user's consent before using their private information, periodic audits for companies, and rules for reporting breaches. The PDP also includes establishing a Data Privacy Authority (DPA) to "maintain, monitor frameworks, firms, and penalties to companies." It must also be noted that laws in India regarding data privacy has largely been abstruse for a long time, until in 2017, the apex court ruled that the Indian constitution guaranteed a fundamental right for every citizen.

When all other messaging apps, video and OTT platforms are adopting a more personalised approach, be it in the way we consume music, education, news or entertainment, or do shopping, the aforementioned messaging app is violating this very tenet by keeping a watch over what we do in our personal space. To understand this, we should take a look at how users' content consumption behavior has undergone seismic shifts over the years. Many new content platforms and digital mediums/channels of content distribution has emerged off late, while some are seeking to democratize content by being platform agnostic, some are weaving content customized for specific distribution channels, such as mobile-first or web-first.

Today's netizens are time-crunched and prefer to view short and precise, on-demand, bite-sized, snackable, high impact streamed content on the device of their choice, whenever and from wherever they want to. Users today participate, interact and ingest content at their terms, at their expediency, and in their own method. Therefore, content today is largely concise, relevant and personalised basis the medium – be it rich media, multi-media, social media, etc. Content distribution approaches, therefore has also become inventive, sublime, cohesive and tailored for Omni channel distribution. Contemporary life has become all about little escapes as time is one of the biggest luxury today. This is best explained by the fact that appointment viewing that the innocuous television once brought to the fore is slowly losing ground. Everyone views content of their preference on a platform of their choice and at their time.

This trend will only snowball in the coming times. While online and digital platforms further expands and permeates more deeply across geographies, the information and the distribution medium ecosystems will further innovate at a blitzkrieg rate, becoming more dynamic by the day; resonating closely with consumer's needs, wants, demands and aspirations.

With the increasing proliferation of internet and smartphones, even in the rural markets, digital content consumption has witnessed an enormous upsurge. As the world slowly adapts with the new normal, this is anticipated to burgeon in the coming times. In India, particularly, the media and entertainment industry has been one of the early harbingers of technological advancement and development. With digitization of content spearheading this evolution, it makes all the more sense to tap into current consumer behavior and sentiments.

Similarly, in the domain of communication and messaging, be it one-to-one or one-to- many, there should be apps that can promise and ensure free, speedy, simple and secure interactions and one that can be used across multiple screens and devices at the same time, seamlessly - syncing across any number of phones, tablets or computers. In fact, all types of freeware, cross-platform, cloud-based instant messaging, video calling, and VoIP service providers should strive to accomplish this said goal.

There is an app that has taken cognizance of all these customer needs and now permits end-to-end encryptions, does not allow any third party to see into someone's visits; chats are not stored in the company's server and they prohibits their users from forwarding messages or taking screenshots of conversations without the other party knowing about it. They also have features like timer led self-destructing messages, encrypted backups and Dark Mode. With customer becoming choosy about privacy and data protection, this space has just opened itself up and one will have to wait and watch how this shapes up.

The author is a visiting faculty to various leading management institutes, teaches consumer behavior and marketing management.

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