Contextual Privacy – the 2022 New Normal

The past couple of years have increasingly urged brands to improve plummeting public perceptions of their privacy practices, following Apple’s move of shutting off the stream of users’ personal data flowing into a third-party ad-tech soup for analysis, retargeting, and mining, as well as general change of sentiment among customers as they evolve and become more digitally savvy.

But these are only the initial baby steps in an up and coming future comprised of 2 trends:

  1. The intrinsic vs. contextual value of privacy
  2. A new “Confidentiality, Interoperability, and Agency” triad.


Build checkpoints not barriers.

A trendy growing narrative (wrongfully) encourages customers to think how securely do they safeguard my private data under lock and key? This metric stems from a mistaken assumption that digital privacy is about concealing and protecting private information.

Rapidly, this is changing into a more mature and correct question to ask which is also more sustainable and forward facing: how well does it protect me against concealed influence and reassert my cognitive consent in digital spaces, regardless of how strong the lockbox is?


Information Is Predictive

These days, every brand is highly dependent on the accuracy of behavior prediction algorithms. The more historical data one can access, the better the predictive models one can build. Granular data leads to high model accuracy, driving up the value of the resulting ad placement. That is all brands and advertisers are interested in gaining access to your private data, better known as personally identifiable information, or PII.

However, customers are growing increasingly aware of the fact that accurate prediction gives advertisers the power of behavior manipulation. Concealed influence and predictive microtargeting are intrusive regardless of whether brands have access to a customer’s identity or not, as long as it can alter someone’s wishes or behavior. In other words, it’s not the data itself that carries intrinsic value, but the applied second-order effects that data makes possible: accurate prediction and ad targeting to exert concealed influence.

Historically, digital privacy has been discussed via the narrative of the journey – how to build effective and impactful roadblocks to prevent data from streaming through to advertisers or other third parties.

In contextual privacy ways of examination, the destination matters much more than the journey. Therefore, a meaningful conversation about privacy must address concealed influence (digital privacy thinking), and not how well a Privacy Enhancing Technology keeps your private data under lock and key.