Data Protection, An Open-Door Policy, and The Puppy Bowl

How the Puppy Bowl got me thinking that we take our Data Security more seriously than our personal and property security.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I did sit with my kids and watch the Puppy Bowl this year on Animal Planet. The whole thing. Start to finish. We were rooting for Team Fluff.  Now that I got that off my chest…

One of the commercials during a stoppage in play was for Wag, a dog-walking app. You sign up with Wag, and you can schedule someone to stop by your home and walk Rover when you are away. The Wag website advertises a cost of $20 for a 30-minute jaunt around the neighborhood.

(This got me envisioning the future of work for some: rent your apartment on Air B&B, jump in your car and do a shift picking up fares for Lyft while delivering meals for GrubHub all the while taking breaks to walk dogs for Wag).

What struck me about the Wag spot was that a basic premise of the service is that Wag walkers need to gain entry to your home when you are not there. The Wag FAQ’s explain that they will provide customers with a lock box to store a key for the walker, they “vet and test” all their walkers (though no indication that any background check is done), and they claim your home is protected up to $1 million when you use a Wag walker.

And it’s not just dog walkers we are inviting into our homes. Last September Walmart announced a partnership with smart lock maker August in which customers who are not at home will be notified on their mobile device when a delivery person arrives. The delivery person will get a one-time access code to open a lock box, and he or she will bring the packages inside the house – even putting perishable items in the fridge or freezer. August provides an in-home camera so you can watch the delivery person in action (and theoretically direct said action … "no, the eggs go on the second shelf. Behind the yogurt.”)  Amazon Prime members in certain cities can take advantage of a similarly secure service where packages will be delivered and left “just inside the door”.

At a time when we seem to be more than willing to allow strangers into our personal space and property, concerns about data privacy and cybercrime are growing rapidly. The World Economic Forum recently released its 2018 Global Risks Report with Cyberattacks and Data Fraud landing in the top 4 of the most likely global risks. A recent Consumer Payment Study by TSYS suggests than consumers overwhelming choose their credit cards based on level of fraud protection as opposed to rewards program quality.

Why are we so eager to let strangers through our door, while at the same time we have widespread concern about the safety of our data? These two trends seem to directly contrast one another. While it does not explain the contrast, the willingness to have an open-door policy likely stems from a trust in institutions that is more prevalent among younger generations. People are increasingly willing to entrust Wag and Walmart and Amazon with the task of vetting a whole host of individuals who are going to have access to their homes.  A 2016 Gallup poll showed that Millennials have more trust in a wide array of institutions -  from banks to health insurance to retailers to the government - than do other generations.

A few years back I theorized that the secret to marketing to Millennials was in identifying when they reached certain life stages. They stayed in college longer, buy houses, get married and have kids later than previous generations did, so when you market to them is just as important as what or how you market to them.  It’s possible that as this generation ages and collects more valuables in their homes (including children) their blind faith in institutions gets tinged with a bit more proactive due diligence.

Of course, maybe it doesn’t happen that way. Maybe we are on a path to greater trust in institutions and more transparency in all aspects of our lives. Innovations like Blockchain depend on it and in fact enable it by adding transparency to every transaction.

In the future, when you get home from your job walking dogs for Wag, you will come home to find another Wag walker has walked your dog for you, the Walmart delivery woman has your pantry and fridge stocked and perfectly arranged, the Blue Apron delivery guy has actually cooked the meal he delivered and it’s ready to eat, and the dry cleaner has laid out your next day’s outfit. That’s a lot of people walking through your house....but it's OK....as long as they don't guess your passwords.

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