Viewpoint: Debate rages globally around data usage

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Facebook has gone from being the darling of the tech sector to something approaching a pariah as it finds itself increasingly under attack. It is accused of exposing its members’ data to unscrupulous operators and for putting its profits ahead of people’s privacy. Its most vocal detractors are arguing that the power of its platform now threatens to topple the pillars of democracy itself.

This might be taking things a tad too far but there is no doubt that the social media giant has firmly put the spotlight on the issue of protecting individual’s data and the danger of concentrating too much power in the hands of a few executives who ultimately determine how the data of billions of people is disseminated, packaged and sold.

As Facebook argues its case against legislators and various governments around the world, over in China the issue of privacy is not quite so high up the agenda. Technology is increasingly being used in the country for use-cases that might be regarded as questionable by companies in the West.

One example is the use of micro-expression technology to detect early signs of fraud from customer’s facial movements. The solution from Ping An can identify 54 involuntary expressions that often occur before the brain is able to control facial movements. This information can be analysed to determine when somebody is not telling the truth.

Such technology has been welcomed by banks and financial services firms in China as a way of avoiding providing loans to dishonest individuals. It could also be used very effectively by retailers when they are considering offering credit to their customers.

Ping An claims its technology has reduced credit losses by 60% for those companies using its solution. Despite this success it has not had any takers among Western companies who are concerned about the ethics and reliability of such technology.

What these two different scenarios highlight is the growing conflict between the incredible capabilities of technology – especially when we throw in the power of artificial intelligence – and the issue of privacy. What we can be sure of is that there will be many ongoing debates about the increasing impact of technology on consumers.

Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider

K3 Retail partners with businesses to provide connected technologies based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 so retailers can reach their goals now and in the future. In a size that best fits future plans wherever you need it – Cloud, Hybrid or On-premise. Our solutions drive more than 800 international retail brands from Charles Tyrwhitt and The White Company to Ryman and Sue Ryder, Hobbycraft, Wasabi and Ted Baker, K3 Retail is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and the UK’s leading Microsoft Dynamics retail partner.