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A Second Look at Consumer Privacy

The tech perspective on consumer privacy

Earlier this summer, after surveying my peers, I wrote a blog post on the Millennial generation’s view on consumer privacy. This post, inspired by a New York Times review of a recent study at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication, detailed how Millennials perceived the collection and use of consumer data.

I found that the Millennials displayed a more relaxed attitude towards data collection than the general population Penn surveyed. However, they highlighted the importance of marketers asking for consent before collecting their data.

As I end my internship with HangIt, I repeated my survey, but with a different set of individuals: technology professionals. After 11 weeks of networking in the tech sector, I surveyed my new contacts on their view of consumer privacy (I did not use statistical survey methodology). I hypothesized that the tech sector would also display a more relaxed attitude toward data collection. The survey responses confirm my predictions, but contained some surprises.

I asked the same questions found in Penn’s study with the addition of one question regarding mobile location (the Millennials survey had the same questions). The table below shows the responses from the three cohorts: the general population of Penn’s survey, Millennials (aged 16-24), and technology professionals.

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Tech Sector vs. Overall Population

Unsurprisingly, the tech sector showed a more relaxed attitude towards data collection than the general population. For example, 30.4% of the tech professionals agreed (strongly agree and agree) that it was fair for companies to give them a discount in exchange for information, compared to only 8% of the general population. Additionally, 69.9% of technology respondents agreed that it would be okay if a store they shopped at used their information to improve the services the store provided. However, only 42% of the respondents to the Penn survey thought such data collection was acceptable.

In question 2, the tech respondents and the Penn respondents had more similar viewpoints. Around 27% of both cohorts believed it was fair for an online or physical store to collect data in exchange for free WiFi. However, the tech sector disagreed less fervently than the general population. 53% of Penn survey takers strongly disagreed with question 2, compared to 17.4% of tech survey takers.

Tech Sector vs. Millennials

More surprisingly, but not entirely unexpected, the tech sector showed an even more relaxed attitude towards data collection than the Millennials. 30.4% of the the tech professionals agreed that it was fair for companies to give them a discount in exchange for information, compared to only 4% of the Millennial cohort. Additionally, while similar percentages of the Millennial cohort and the tech cohort, believed data collection could create a better shopping experience (question 3, see table above), 17.4% of the tech sector strongly agreed with the question, but only 5.3% of Millennials strongly agreed.

Furthermore, I asked an additional question in my survey (question 4) regarding mobile location since it pertains to my internship at HangIt. The tech sector again showed a more relaxed attitude. 78.3% of the tech cohort thought it was acceptable for a mobile application to track their location and send their device notifications based on their current locations, compared to 62.7% of the Millennial cohort.

Still Hope for Privacy?

Above 80% of each cohort wanted to have control over what marketers could learn about them (question 5, see table). However, the tech sector believed they still have some degree of control over their privacy. In question 6, 39.1% of the tech cohort disagreed with the statement; “I’ve come to accept I have little control of what marketers can learn about me online,” compared to 10.7% of the Millennial cohort and 34% of the Penn cohort.

I think the tech sector disagreed with the statement for different reasons than the general population. The tech professionals, since they work in the industry, probably know of more ways to protect their data, than the average person. One tech survey taker advocated that all consumers should be educated about methods of data collection, data analysis and data usage since “not all users are informed and know how information gathering, analytics, etc. works.”

Additionally, tech professionals would either be among the first individuals to learn about or themselves create innovations in the field of consumer privacy. Another tech respondent discussed “ …a separate dashboard/application to control/monitor inputs and outputs of data shared. Turn on/off organizations and keep track of data in real time…” Tech professionals are aware of the positives and negatives of data sharing. They are looking to maximize the benefits, while minimizing the downside.

Maybe the tech respondents just have more clear boundaries on what they are willing to share and what they are not, and ensure their online presence reflect those boundaries. Whatever the reason, the tech cohort still maintains some hope for privacy, so perhaps we all can too.

About the Blogger: Laya Mallela is a full time student at Cornell University’s Dyson School, where she is pursuing a degree in Applied Economics and Management, with concentrations in marketing and finance. She has just completed her second year. As an intern at HangIt, Laya is excited to learn and explore the tech scene of NYC. She can be reached at laya.mallela@hangit.com

 

 


Elevating Women in Tech
Observations on how to increase the number of women in technology

As a marketing manager at HangIt, I attend many events based in NYC’s technology scene. At these informal gatherings, I meet a variety of interesting people such as developers, designers and entrepreneurs. However, one surprising element of these meetings I noticed is the lack of women in attendance. I can sometimes count the number women at these events on one hand.

It is no surprise the number of women in technology is significantly lower than the number of men. Simply look at the statistics. In 2013, women held 26% of computing jobs. Even in top technology companies like Google and Facebook, women hold less than 20% of technical roles.

The Roots of Inequality

Curious to discover the root of this inequity, I engaged in some external research. Some, such as Gene Marks, argue that the inequality does not exist by accident, but exists by choice. He writes, “the real reason [there are so fewer women in tech] is that most women clearly aren’t interested in technology-related work as men are. It’s a choice. And for whatever reasons, more women seem choose other fields” (Forbes). I wholeheartedly disagree with Mr. Marks statement. I think women are minorities in the tech field, not by choice, but by two factors: lack of interest from young girls and technology company culture.

Inspiring Young Girls

Adolescent girls do not have the same motivation to explore technology as their male counterparts do. While some say both genders have the ability to take advanced STEM courses in high school, I argue that taking an advanced placement class does necessarily motivate students to pursue the field. Girls need to have strong female role models in the technology industry. Where are the female Bill Gates’ and Mark Zuckerbergs ? Educators and parents need to highlight the female icons in technology and demonstrate their successes to young girls.

Additionally, young girls need exposure to the STEM fields outside the classroom, but perhaps a more creative approach will help pique their interest. Jewelbots, a programmable friendship bracelet, may be such an approach. Founded by Sara Chipps, Brooke Moreland and Maria Paula Saba, Jewelbots combine both function and fashion. Using Bluetooth and a smartphone app, girls can program their charms to light up when friends are near. The smartphone app serves as an entry point to the bracelet. If girls plug the charms into their computers, they can program it to do anything, such as light up when they have a new Instagram follower. Creative approaches such as Jewelbots, introduce girls to technology in way that is relevant to their lives. If girls can relate to technology, they are more likely to develop an interest in it.

Lastly, educators and parents should encourage and mentor girls who show even a small interest in the STEM fields. Girls may need extra support than boys to help them discredit hurtful stereotypes that claim girls are inferior at math and science. With the immense pressure to “fit in” during adolescent years, girls may need help finding a group of friends who supports their interest in technology.

An Uninviting Culture

If many more girls develop an interest in technology, we can more easily solve the problem of male-focused company culture in the technology field. Kieran Snyder of Fortune surveyed 716 women who left the technology industry to figure out their reasons. Women cited “…the lack of flexible work arrangements, the unsupportive work environment, or a salary that was inadequate to pay for childcare” (Fortune). As these women became mothers these problems were amplified. Additionally, about 25% of the women surveyed felt uncomfortable with their work environments since they were different in an otherwise homogenous setting. Therefore, if more young girls pursue careers in the STEM fields, companies will be forced to offer accommodations women need since a higher percentage of their employees will be female.

Proactive, not Reactive

For now, women in tech must thrive as minorities. Lori Cheek, Founder and CEO of Cheekd, a mobile dating app that makes missed connections obsolete, finds while women are beginning to make enormous strides in the technology and entrepreneurial world, men clearly dominate the field. In response, she has a small network of extra supportive women and embraces her status as female founder.

Moving forward, technology companies need to view adding females to their workforce as a proactive, rather than a reactive action. Gender diversity should not be an after thought. Companies should actively recruit talented young women and create positive work environments for both genders. With greater diversity, technology companies can find even more success.

 

 

About the Blogger: Laya Mallela is a full time student at Cornell University’s Dyson School, where she is pursuing a degree in Applied Economics and Management, with concentrations in marketing and finance. She has just completed her second year. As an intern at HangIt, Laya is excited to learn and explore the tech scene of NYC. She can be reached at laya.mallela@hangit.com