OPINION: FaceApp revives the question of data privacy & security

Thursday August 15 2019

By Sanjay Rughani

I was recently on an annual work break for about two weeks. I was privileged to travel to California and took the opportunity to go on a cruise to Mexico.

During these moments of downtime, I always like to take time to reflect on the world we live in and what’s in store for the future.

The differences and similarities from one continent to the other can be eye-opening.

One common aspect of which I am a keen observer and like to reflect on is how we interact with technology in our day-to-day lives. Interestingly, even most of my generation cannot remember how life was without access to the Internet.

The advances we have made with mobile and technology applications, which nowadays seem to want to address our every single need from how to bank, to how to stay fit, to how we should move around, all confirm one thing: technology is engulfing almost every aspect of our lives.

It seems like everyone these days is talking about technology. A quick scan of your social media platforms and you will not miss words like “Tech Savvy”, “Mad About Technology”, “FinTech”, “Artificial Intelligence”, “Social Native”, “Open Source” and oh and this one “Big Data”.

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This generation and the next cannot even imagine life without a mobile phone. Technology has given the most vocal generation a platform to have their stories heard whether it is on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

And they are always on the lookout for what is trending and quick to share their voice, information, at a click of a button. Recently the most trending mobile application was FaceApp with the #AgeChallenge. An App that was launched more than 2 years ago, suddenly became popular thanks to a hashtag challenge that was driven by celebrities and online influencers.

And in just a matter of days, millions of people around the world shared their information with the App Developers; and even more personal, their faces.

And yes, I gave it a try. Who wouldn’t want to get a glimpse of how they may look 20 years from now?

When people online started to make comments about the rights of the photos and any data given to the App creators, then just as fast as it had trended, questions and concerns about data privacy and security erupted. This being social media, there were all sorts of concerns about the safety and privacy of users; all sorts of theories; and this went on for a while.

According to a Brand Watch article that I read while on my break; every click, every view and sign-up is recorded potentially somewhere on the internet.

So, when you think about 4.4 billion internet users and then granulate their usages across different platforms, someone can possibly be holding a lot of potentially sensitive (and lucrative) data.

While the concerns on data privacy around FaceApp have been the focus for the last couple of weeks, with more data being produced at unprecedented pace in our history, a more objective conversation would be how companies, government agencies, and other stakeholders can best balance the equation of driving impactful technology strategies and at the same time address the issue of Data Ownership, Privacy and Security for today’s technology users with the significance it deserves.

I am proud to be leading a bank that values customer privacy and puts the security of our customer’s information at the heart of everything we do.

Standard Chartered Bank takes the protection of our customers’ finances very seriously; all day and every day.

We not only ensure that our online services are protected by strong firewalls, but we also support our clients with significantly enhanced security features, authentication processes and value advise so they are well secured.

Let’s FaceIT – Data management, privacy and security is a game that leaders will need to play more proactively and strategically.

Sanjay Rughani is chief executive officer Standard Chartered Bank Tanzania