Building trust in a connected world – towards sustainable growth

Facebook is staging in Hong Kong its first Asia-Pacific data-driven economy summit this week to discuss how data is harnessed to help society as a whole

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 March, 2016, 8:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 March, 2016, 8:01am

Every generation of technology changes the way we connect with people, businesses and things that matter to us the most. From smoke signals to carrier pigeons, newspapers to mobile phones, video chat and now virtual reality – the way we connect with each other has significantly changed over time, and for the better.

The trend is clear - connecting becomes faster, more efficient, more immersive. And with each invention, technology’s capacity to serve society takes a giant leap forward. As the world becomes more connected, people have access to new information and opportunities in Hong Kong and beyond.

People’s data is playing an increasingly pivotal role in the creation and evolution of innovative new services, including services that improve how we connect across the globe. These services are transforming our economy and society and changing people’s lives.

The power of personal data is that it enables richness, relevance and efficiency for every individual, in so many aspects of their lives. It is helping people discover products, content and services they may not otherwise have discovered, and on the flip side it is helping businesses cost-effectively reach people who might be interested in their products and services.

I now see less of what I’m not interested in, and more of what I am.

By creating platforms for people to connect and share on, digital services have also helped aid political and community participation and acted as an organising centre in times of crises. Our Safety Check tool, which is a simple and easy way to let others know you are safe during times of crises, is just one example. There is no going back. The personal, social and economic benefits of these services are already too great to consider giving up.

At the same time, this rapid change can create uncertainties and confusion as old categories and boundaries get blurred or crossed. New perceived dangers, problems and drawbacks emerge. We may struggle to harness the new opportunities in an attempt to minimise or eliminate potential negative impacts.

These changes have generated an important debate as multiple stakeholders – consumers, business leaders, technologists, innovators, opinion leaders, policymakers and regulators – work to make sense of what’s happening and discern the best way forward.

This week, Facebook is staging in Hong Kong its first Asia-Pacific data-driven economy summit. We have invited government regulators, business leaders and scholars from around the region to discuss in Hong Kong how data is harnessed to help society as a whole.

Our goal is to provide a platform for ideas and collaboration, and to work with a wide range of stakeholders to help sustainably shape the growth of the data-driven economy.

Historically, Hong Kong has always served as the meeting point for east and west to exchange different ideas and culture. With new policy efforts and resources committed recently by the government to push forward technology and innovation, Hong Kong has the potential to take the lead in the next phase of the data-driven economy - similar to its accomplishments over the last few decades to become one of the world’s top financial hubs.

Personal data is critical to the success of today’s digital market in Hong Kong and the broader region. This success requires that people trust their information will be treated fairly, and that they are empowered to take control over how it’s used. With so much information being generated and shared online, some people feel as though they have lost control of their data or aren’t quite sure who has access to it. Some say a lack of understanding of how digital services make their money makes them uneasy and they assume (often incorrectly) that their data is being sold to other parties.

The good news is this is not a zero sum proposition. The innovation that is fueled by the personal data revolution can not only co-exist with privacy and trust. I believe it is actually enhanced by it.

When people feel there is accountability for their data and privacy, and there is visibility into how their data is used, this will build trust and confidence in services. And as people learn the skills, and companies provide people with the tools, to take greater control over their own data, entirely new services become possible, enabling people to leverage their own data to create new value for themselves, and the businesses that serve them.

The digital economy has enormous potential for economic growth, social good and individual value – but only if people trust it enough to fully engage. Building this trust is the goal of our first Asia-Pacific data-driven economy summit.

Stephen Deadman joined Facebook as Global Deputy Chief Privacy Officer in January 2015 to lead Facebook’s international privacy policy. Deadman previously served as Global Privacy Officer and Head of Legal for Privacy and Security at Vodafone Group, where he founded the company’s global privacy programme.