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To celebrate the University of British Columbia’s centennial, we asked UBC Sauder professors to tell us about imminent changes in business that will transform our daily lives.  From the green economy to internet security we asked them, “What’s next?”

 

Who:

Hasan Cavusoglu, associate professor of management information systems at UBC Sauder School of Business, and expert on information security and privacy.

What's Now:

As the popularity of mobile apps and social media sites spread, consumers have become increasingly accustomed to sharing their private information online, says Cavusoglu — either because they are unaware of the potential ramifications, or because they choose to ignore them.

“The challenge is that the value of these new technologies is immediate — you get likes and you create engagement — but the potential damage is in the distant future,” he explains, adding that people regularly click “agree” when companies ask to collect their data, even though it’s rarely made clear how that data will be used. “And from psychology research in other contexts, we know that people tend to ignore the future and don’t do very good risk calculation.”

Also, people’s online movements are being carefully tracked, explains Cavusoglu. These days, if you search for something online — polka dotted socks, say — you’ll often see similar items popping up in your social media feeds and other online travels.

What's Next:

Companies will get better and better at tracking consumers through aggregated information from a variety of sources — and it may not work to the buyer’s advantage, predicts Cavusoglu. For example, if BMW discovers that you are set on buying one of their automobiles, you may not get as good a price as someone who is undecided.

But even more concerning, he says, is how ever-increasing connectedness is creating a host of potential hazards — and in the future, they will go well beyond basic credit card fraud.

For example, hackers could interrupt the operation of internet-enabled cars, and suddenly switch off the ignition or immobilize the brakes; or, using home automation technology, thieves could conceivably open doors or control other functions in people’s homes. On a larger scale, entire organizations and city systems could be brought to a grinding halt.

“Right now it’s only viewed as a threat to data or personal information,” says Cavusoglu. “But with the connected nature of technology, the Internet of Things and the cloud, the spectrum of threats will be totally different.”

Hasan Cavusoglu

Cavusoglu argues that a consensus needs to be reached between businesses and policy-makers, because too much restriction can impede innovation and reduce competitiveness; but too few regulations can put the public at risk.

“Policy-makers should work with organizations to find common ground that ensures a sufficient level of privacy and security for the general public and the country, but balances the needs of organizations to access high-end technologies and leverage the information they collect,” he says. “Otherwise organizations will just keep pushing the boundaries.”

Consumers, too, need to be better informed — not only about who is accessing their information, but how it will be used — and understand that their privacy is worth protecting.

“As technology evolves, the dangers will be much greater than what we have seen so far,” warns Cavusoglu. “This really is just the beginning.”