One of my professors recently had my full attention in class (which happens very rarely) as she elaborated on the concept of Panopticon. The Panopticon, an architecturally genius move by Jeremy Bentham in the 18th Century, was a building placed in the center of several prisons. As a result, the watchman can have unlimited access to the worlds of every inmate. Meanwhile, the inmates have to behave properly since they may or may not be watched at a given moment.

A pictorial representation of the Panopticon, Source: Medium

Years later, in 1975, Michael Foucault, a French philosopher, took the idea of panopticon to talk about constant surveillance. He rejects the panopticon model that injects fear in people to behave according to a set social standard. Here we are, in 2021, and we're still debating on a digital panopticon, that perhaps has access to every little detail about us, and we fear every minute as if someone is watching us.

"Surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action." - Michael Foucault, Discipline and Punish.

Why are we discussing Privacy now?

Recent furore over WhatsApp's new privacy guidelines has opened several discussions surrounding the issue of privacy. Anivar Aravind, a senior software engineer, spoke with The Quint and dissected what exactly is at stake with the new policy. WhatsApp would now be integrating with Facebook and provide the data collected to personalise the ads one will see on the platform. But WhatsApp's policies in India are much more than that. He explains, "WhatsApp Pay in India works just like any other UPI payment application. The data goes through at least six parties involved. This data includes your location data, your real name, your bank account transaction number." End-to-end encrypted? That does not work very well here.

What does this mean to businesses?

This privacy row has helped Signal, a centralised encrypted messaging service, gained several new users, with being the no.1 app in 70 countries on Apple and 35 countries in Android. Large startups like PhonePe have shifted more than 1000 employees to Signal. But the smaller businesses who started out in WhatsApp are losing its customers, with many of them moving to other secure platforms like Telegram and Signal.

Why should you care?

Because Privacy matters - to your customers, your brand and your business.

People are more conscious about their decisions on digital platforms, with increasing concern on privacy. How can you help? By showing them that you care. Ensuring that customers feel safe while interacting with your business platform online is of utmost importance in this age.

How does privacy matter to your brand? If a big business like WhatsApp can lose so much due to privacy, I think everyone should be careful at this point. Privacy can affect a customer's experience in multiple ways. If a customer does not feel comfortable sharing their information with you, you may want to rethink your privacy policies.

Source : Strait Times

And we all know what happens to a business that cares for their customer. Growth. And hey, maybe you might be lucky one day and up in Elon Musk's tweet! But well, let's just hope that the people get your company's name right and invest accordingly this time.