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How The Internet Has Revolutionized Transparency For Consumers

2021 June 22
by Ann Smarty

The concept of transparency seems to be everywhere these days, from the products we consume to the governments we look to in guiding our countries. Social media is another haven for transparency. With millions of eyes watching, it’s difficult for any organization or individual to say one thing and do another.

Advocates of the transparency movement say that it is a very good thing; after all, transparency is serving to keep people honest and up front about the products and services they sell to consumers. But another camp is coming to the fore which says that transparency may not be such a good thing after all.

Why Is Transparency So Important To Us?

Maybe we place such a high value on transparency because it can help to cause change on several levels. Changes can occur within a company or government which can alter the way it operates. Transparency can also cause a change in the way companies and governments relate to the people. And, it can result in groups being able to participate in policy or law making that may not have had that opportunity previously.

It could be that we are witnessing a new world revolution; one where truth and honesty prevails, creating a society that always knows exactly what kind of products and services it uses, and never has to wonder about things like ingredients or side effects.

The Incentives of Transparency

When one company discloses information that would be considered to be classified or not required knowledge for the consumer, that company is often hailed for its commitment to being honest with its customers. As a result, that company can stand to make a lot of money.

There can be no doubt that being transparent can have many financial advantages to companies and governments. Being transparent means openness to criticism by the public being served by that entity, and can create greater trust between company and consumer. And as most business owners know, trust is crucial to building long-lasting and profitable relationships.

But being transparent doesn’t only mean that the customer benefits. The company can also benefit from transparency, in that doing this may attract experts which may be able to help a company improve itself in any number of ways. So for example, a bakery who reveals its baking process may hear from an appliance company who can offer a faster solution to getting goods out of the oven and onto the shelf.

A company’s or government’s costs can also be reduced by being transparent about them. Capital costs can be greatly reduced when a company makes their financial reports and audits available.

Can There Be Too Much Transparency?

Some say that consumers are too obsessed with data. In wanting as much information about a company, government or product as we can possibly get, more transparency is demanded and usually provided by these organizations. But this can often be done at the expense of other values like privacy.

Cybersecurity is a new nightmare consumers have to deal with, hence the emergence of promising cybersecurity platforms like Aura. With transparency, there’s an ever-existing risk of your data being stolen and used against you.

As well, much of the data used by consumers to make informed purchase or other decisions may be incomplete in one way or another. Or, it can also be worded or presented in such a way as to make it appear more positive or negative than it actually is.

This can result in many risks to the consumer. In the case of public safety, a large number of unreported crimes may fool residents and enforcement software alike into thinking their neighborhood is crime free. This false sense of security can then actually result in the committal of more crimes.

Some experts are saying that what’s needed is to demand that all online means of information access respect other values besides transparency. For example, instead of making campaign donation databases able to have all records available to anyone at any time, they could make records available for a limited time.

As much as we may desire to find out all we can about a company or government before making decisions, taking the information we find with a grain of salt may end up helping us more in the long run. Life does not always carry on in a pattern that we consider to be logical, and so it doesn’t always make sense to demand that those processes within it follow certain guidelines.

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