Enterprises need to earn the trust of a skeptical public.

That's because people are pushing back against invasive data practices. Google, Facebook, and YouTube: These services are free because you're the product that's being sold to advertisers.

Big G knows more about you than you. It therefore enjoys infinite leverage over users from whom it gained trust over the years to share every conceivable piece of sensitive data.

The Silicon Valley company collects gigabytes of data to form detailed profiles. These are derived from emails, shopping carts, credit card numbers, address, browsing history, usernames and passwords, photos, linked apps, YouTube videos, and so on.

Unfortunately, everyone has chat messages, photos,  passwords, and other sensitive details that we don't ever want to share with the outside world. Therefore, it's threatening when Big Tech gathers so much info about us.

But times are changing. Consumers, and some lawmakers, are demanding change.

Data Ownership on Social Media

Social media and privacy: That's not an oxymoron. If enterprises won't adapt, then startups will fill the void by offering better choices on privacy and data security.

Three-fourths (75%) of respondents are protective of security-related information, and 70% are protective of their identification, according to a 2019 survey by RSA. Moreover, 59% of Americans think personalization is intrusive and unethical.

Decentralization, privacy, and security form the basis of Howdoo, a social media platform that combines every type of content. The founders built a blockchain-powered platform that gives users complete ownership of data, and to choose whether to involve third parties.

The venture is an example of entrepreneurs taking advantage of changing sentiments about how organizations should eavesdrop online.

Thanks to decentralized blockchain, Howdoo's users can preserve their records, and keep them private. Unlike centralized entities (like Facebook), users give consent and control their data.

As the old saying goes, the customer is king. Companies risk losing users, as well as risk facing an adversarial regulatory environment if they don't meet new demands.

A 2018 survey by Pew Research found that 54% of adult Facebook users have adjusted their privacy settings in the past year. And a 2018 poll by Axios found that 55% of Americans believe the government should do more to regulate Big Tech like Google and Facebook.

Creating Tamper-Proof Records

Aside from privacy, blockchains record tamper-proof data.

That's important because high-profile breaches or scandals ruin billion-dollar corporate reputations. Think Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018. It sowed deep distrust in Mark Zuckerberg's platform, and caused people to deactivate their accounts.

A 2018 survey by Akamai found that only 46% would give brands a pass for a breach. Consumers are also actively protecting their info: 71% use software that protect privacy and control their browsing experience.

"Years from now, when everyone is shopping and browsing on decentralized platforms, they'll look back in astonishment that our generation tolerated a lack of privacy and security," says David Brierley, founder of Howdoo. The site's utility token, the uDoo, rewards users for engagement, and it's the medium of exchange on the platform like V-Bucks is for Fortnite.

Consent is also becoming critical. Platforms must clearly communicate data practices to users, and users must consent to what may be construed as intrusive or spying. Organizations should not hide behind the fine print.

Being eavesdropped on isn't a pleasant experience: It feels like the digital version of a peeping Tom. Companies will need to adjust to shifting sentiments. Most people, especially Millennials and Generation Z, are at odds with snooping and data sharing.

Published on: Sep 16, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.