We operate in a digital world. Social media has grown in use and influence, organizations use the latest technology to digitize information and more and more people work remotely. It is hard to think about old-school offices with filing cabinets or libraries with card catalogs. Technology may increase efficiency and work productivity, but there is also a darker side. Gen Z is a generation that has grown up with technology. They have seen how companies have taken and used consumers’ data without their permission and used technology for less than moral reasons. So what does Gen Z Think of “Surveillance Capitalism”
Who Are GenTech?
Gen Z is a generation that grew up with social media, laptops and the latest technology. They are sometimes referred to as the GenTech generation because technology was normalized for them throughout their lives. They are familiar with everything from social media and the latest apps to artificial intelligence technology. As they have grown, this generation has reaped both the benefits of technology as well as seen its darker sides. Thus, many younger adults today are veering away from a digital capitalist world. GenTech is concerned about how their information can be taken and used without their consent. This is challenging businesses to reconsider their practices.
Information Is Currency
In today’s world, information is currency. Businesses around the world use data about buying decisions to personalize other products and services. Many members of Gen Z do not seem to like that their online presence is a commercial commodity that is bought and sold. Some people in the GenTech generation call this monitoring of online behavior “surveillance capitalism.”
The Impact of Artificial Intelligence
Many businesses have algorithms and artificial intelligence technology in place to monitor people. The digital economy thrives when businesses can predict and understand consumers’ behavior. Nearly half of the GenTech group do not like such monitoring. In fact, only 29 percent saw it as a positive. Instead, younger adults want independence and freedom. People are worried about the access businesses have to individuals’ personal lives in the name of business. Legislation has been developed and passed in various nations to protect consumers’ private information: the EU General Data Protection Regulation of 2019 is just one example.
Companies Hear GenTech
Public outcry has been heard by some companies. Facebook and Google have made public vows to prioritize consumers’ privacy. Still, some criticize the organizations’ lack of transparency when it comes to data. Recently, a microphone was even found in one of Google’s alarm products. Google has offered a plan to auto-delete people’s location history data and give people the option to use “incognito mode” on Google Maps.
Transparency and Privacy
As GenTech grows older, businesses may need to consider their desire for privacy and transparency. Younger adults want to know how businesses operate. GenTech may know that their data is collected, but they want to know how the information is used and how the information is collected. Other younger adults are interested in having ownership of their information. If data is going to operate as a currency, then they want to reap the benefits. More than 50 percent of GenTech would give their information over as long as they knew how it was used and could receive something in return. For example, this could mean offering financial incentives to share information or richer access to apps and website features.
Changing Business as We Know It
GenTech’s experience with technology and desire for transparency could change how business is done. Businesses have a unique opportunity to communicate with consumers in a new way. By giving them control over their data, they can empower them and increase customer satisfaction. Organizations like Killi and Ocean Protocol offer people the chance to sell their data or receive compensation for surveys.
Consumers Gaining Control Over Data
GenTech is the generation that has seen what it means when their personal and professional lives merge with digital technology. As they grow older, they have the power to challenge organizations’ privacy policies and practices. For example, Solid is a platform that gives people the chance to control where data is stored and who can view it thanks to their POD (personal online data storage), a server that gives people access to their information. Because GenTech has been “plugged in” since birth, they know the short-term and long-term effects of data and personal privacy.
The conflict between technology, individualism and the business world rages on. GenTech just might be the generation that challenges the limits and moral code of surveillance capitalism. After all, they grew up learning social media and technology just as easily as they learned to walk or speak. If a generation is going to make changes about transparency, business and technology, this is the group with the knowledge, experience and time to do it.