We live in a world that is digitally transforming at paces faster than society understands the impact on our overall existence, and faster than laws can be formed to curb some of the unsavoury behaviours by digital giants. Many of us have come to accept the pervasiveness of technology as part of our everyday functioning existence. But have you ever stopped to think:
· What is your level of conscious agency as you interact with machines — whether it is making a one-time purchase and subscribing to a service?
· What are your rights regarding disclosure to satisfy a transaction?
· Should there be some regulations over what is being asked of us by digital firms?
· Are you in full control?
· Do you know what information you are exchanging?
· What is the relevance of the information to your interaction instance with that company?
· And most importantly why is the data being collected?
Given this, and the raging social conversations in my circle of friends, here are my top 7 nuisances that I wish digital companies should work on for 2019
1. Lose my data
I know I am not alone with this one. Many companies, such as Facebook, are making way too much money using our data for sometimes nefarious purposes. Some we have heard about, but many others we will never know. Let’s face it — more and more people are trusting digital companies less and less. These companies operate in a space with no guiding ethical values and little to no laws that give us a sense of security as we navigate online. We engage in interactions with machines innocently, without understanding the level of our agency as human users.
What aspects of our lives are tracked?
Why do companies need my data?
What value is it to them?
What is in it for me?
What is being collected?
Who else is seeing my data?
Where is my data being stored?
And for how long
We have a right to know. Before computers, there was the idea that personal data was such and treated as such. Today nothing is sacred. All human data is up for grabs, and trafficking with the ultimate goal of making money for those who understand how to do this. While some digital companies do not do this, many do. It is time digital companies begin thinking about Humans at the center of the experience and not about the gold rush of human data. After all, it is all about us.
2. Stop keeping my credit card information on file
Two years ago, I purchased a high-end subscription for over $315. Since then I used the service for a targeted purpose as the lesser packages did not meet my needs at the time. In the months following my purchase, I used the tools’ features from time to time, and eventually very little at all over time. The subscription had served its purpose but did not warrant a continued subscription.
I can say that the tools’ value proposition had diminished over time. So, it came as a shock when I proactively looked at my PayPal account to see that I was auto-billed that very day for the service I subscribed to 2 years ago — there was no email notifying me of the incoming billing. I was not pleased. Not only did I cancel the service immediately, but I also filled a resolution ticked with PayPal to revoke the payment and also let that company know I felt — I will never give that company my credit card again. And yes you messed it up for the rest. And while I understand the ideals of subscription services, many companies are operating under the radar and making sure their coffers remain full by undercover auto- billing. My distaste for this comes from my adherence to real-world interactions, where a transaction is a one-time instance, and my level of agency in the process is understood by both myself and the non-digital entity (vendor).
Digital companies have made it normal to store credit card information with virtually little to no pushback by customers.
3. Stop blocking functionality because I will not enter my payment details
Recently I tried setting up my sons’ 2 Apple computers. As part of the process, I felt forced to add payment details to ease billing. This is not a process I enjoyed as I was once charged for purchases made by my 6 and 9-year-old kids, without my consent. I find this feature irritating, if not revolting. This practice is not limited to Apple products alone. Trying to remove an existing credit card from some online apps is like surgery. Companies make it hard as it is in their benefit to have platforms that allow for auto-billing, hoping that some consumers will be none the wiser.
Give me control of my financial information — to share or not to share.
4. Stop auto-billing me without a heads-up
Ok, so I liked your product 2 years ago and never saw your well-hidden pre-checked “auto-renew” button at the time. Now two years later with barely a hello between us and your products’ diminishing value proposition, you auto bill me for over $315. Such a sneaky practice. Many digital companies will auto bill with no email notification of intent to give customers a choice to cancel or re-subscribe.
5. Let me know when AI is suggesting my options — & Please stop tracking me!
Thanks for the decision-making guidance Mr. Digital company. Kudos! So, was that your proprietary algorithm that only you understand how it works? Yes, I bought a few garden books last time I dropped by — I don’t need you hounding me to buy more garden books. I know where to find them in the future. While some people like this, many of us don’t.
Dear Mr. Digital company
We all get it — you are super smart, with super smart people working for you so can you add a LOUD visual affordance (maybe a wand or something) to let me and the rest of my fellow humans know when machines are goading us to make decisions? And while you are at it can you also stop tracking me. That’s creepy, and while you may think its normal online, it’s a disturbing thing in the real world to be followed. We call it stalking. And for those who don’t care that you track them — has your algorithm been optimized to handle fringe cases that could mess us up badly when it matters? While machines are better than humans at some things, we need to rethink the use of Algorithm in certain aspects of human life, especially those spaces that serve to diminish our humanity and treatment of each other — be it in the political sphere or mindless decision-making that makes us absent from our decision-making ability. You don’t know me –my human mind is perfect as it is for most of my existence and the decisions I have to make. Quit stalking me and calling it something else.
You are turning into that creepy guy who just found out where I live.
6. Quit asking if I want to import my contact list
You’ve asked me once; you’ve asked me thrice; now twenty times.
Get a hint and please advise your algorithm that I learnt from my early Facebook days how that was not a good idea. Last time I allowed you to import my contact list you contacted old boyfriends and folks from whom I have moved on, leaving me to clean up the mess after they got notices that I invited them to join things.
Digital companies need to stop this annoying behavior, and if they continue it will do them well also to add a salient button that reads — “Don’t ask me again!” — Channelling my inner Taytay when I say:
“you and my contacts are never getting back together. Ever! Ever!”
7. Let’s work on my trust issues of you
Okay, Mr. Digital company you promised last time I trusted you that my data was safe and it was just between us. However, given the fallout of the 2016 US election, many of us now know that you were not telling the truth. We find out that you treated our data, and our friends’ data like you don’t treat your own. Enlighten us on why. It strikes me as odd that many CEOS of digital firm do not put their personal information on their platforms. Why? Is it because it is not safe? Digital companies should remember if you have even gotten your heart broken, it’s kind of like that. It is hard to trust you moving forward. You have a long road ahead. If only you embrace one mantra on your way back let it be: Don’t be evil!