Fixing privacy on the internet requires rethinking advertising

The world of big, open data has given us undeniably useful services. Knowing the buying patterns of their customers across the country, Amazon can stock warehouses in different areas and cheaply deliver many items to you in two days or less. Spotify can act as your personal DJ, cultivating playlist of new music you will probably like based on the tastes of people like you. Uber and Lyft can predict where most of their customers will be and make sure a car arrives quickly.

But, of course, this isn’t just an abstract data–this is people’s data. Yours and mine. And right now, the way the internet is structured, we have to sacrifice privacy to get the convenience provided by these apps.

Some of us don’t mind–they say the benefits outweigh the costs. But privacy is a universal human right, and people should be able to have more control over their privacy when they engage over the internet.

Others don’t mind because they haven’t thought about it much, or are resigned to the status quo. The status quo of the internet right now is advertising. To be successful, advertisers need personal data about their prospective customers, which is inherently anti-privacy.

Whenever you log onto the internet or use an app connected to it, you are bombarded with targeted advertising. In many ways, the user experience on the internet right now is ad-driven. Which is surprising, because online advertising is a relatively small industry, with few players: in the West, there was only about $60 billion generated by online ads in 2016, more than 80% of which went to Facebook and Google.

Ads are not the value proposition on which the internet of the future can, or should, be built.

Instead, we need to think of a way to restructure the internet to be more ad-free and privacy-conscious while still allowing access to some data for app developers so that they can keep building the magical services we all crave.

We at VEON are trying to build just such an internet and messaging platform. I know that I would not want to, at the time of my birth, be asked to share my location with my weather app from now till the end of time. My location should only be requested when I actually check the weather. And that app certainly does not need my credit card information!

So, on the VEON platform, we are consolidating the personal data that you share with us into a single, secure online entity. This is encrypted and only pieces of it (tokens) are sent out to the various services you can access through the VEON platform. This allows the apps to receive only the information they need to provide their service and to further improve it–a user-focused approach to internet experience.

Since we are restructuring entirely how services are provided for users, our internet is completely ad-free. To us at VEON, the user-experience is paramount, and we consider privacy a universal human right. All of the contextual services within the VEON platform are completely opt-in, meaning we will never give over your data to a third-party without your consent.

The internet will not be able to keep innovating if it scares away users with ads and lax privacy. At VEON, we’re working to provide ad-free magic without compromising privacy.

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