Have a think about what you actually need to know about your users. It may be less than you think.

If you’re in charge of any websites or apps, don’t get caught in the trap of collecting as much info as you can now and worrying about how you’ll use it later. Why bother? It’s a fact that most of the data collected will never be used. Never! It just gets collected and then burns energy sitting on a computer somewhere.

You wouldn't order fifteen taxis to have them just sitting outside your office, idling their engines and burning fuel, just in case you need to go to the airport. So why do it with data? The datacentres that store your information are real places that continuously consume resources. You can't see them and you probably never think about them but they are out there.

Yes! Measure things! Track your product and make sure you’re hitting your metrics. But think about it first. Don’t just grab everything you can.

Imagine that you were asking people for this information in person, face-to-face. Would you feel a bit uncomfortable doing it? Would you feel a bit creepy? Then maybe that’s a sign that you don’t really need it after all. Because, guess what? You are asking real people. Even if they don’t understand it themselves, it’s up to you to guide them.

Picture the scene; you are the personal representative of Zoom and you are sitting in the front room of a family home asking them to use your product. You have to ask the parents if it would be okay to sell the transcripts of their kids’ video calls to any unknown third party, most probably Facebook, but anyone with enough cash.

It would be pretty awkward, right?

Instead, we all know that what happens is that companies sneak all sorts of things past you in a densely worded privacy policy that hardly anyone ever reads. In Zoom’s case, they were found out and publicly shamed and they changed their policy, which is great.

But it didn’t take a genius to work out that it would have failed a sniff-test before that.

# In summary

  • Think about what pieces of data you need to know about people who use your products.
  • Ask for them clearly and explain why you need them.
  • Don’t take anything else because you will probably never use it anyway.
  • And always delete things you don’t need because otherwise you’re wasting energy and, even though you might not realise it, you could be unwittingly contributing to climate change.