Data was once hard to get and hard to take action on. Now, it is easy to get but many users still assume that action won’t be taken. However, it’s also far easier to take action on information than ever before.

For instance, Getty Images had a long-standing practice of scooping up business owners who had used their photos and illustrations without permission, wittingly or not. They sent bots out to scour the web and compare photos posted on sites to their database of copyrighted images.

If they found a website with a copyrighted image, they researched domain information, email addresses, business license information and sent a lawsuit threat. The infringer was asked to pay anywhere from $800 to several thousand dollars, or else be taken to court for far more money, plus legal fees.

The process is almost entirely automatic. The robots were digital, the research was rote, the threats were boilerplate letters signed en masse by an attorney, and it all added up to a moneymaking machine.

Then, several decisions went against Getty and they were found to be acting in a bullying way. Their cases weren’t going anywhere in court, and they changed their practices. Getty has not stopped litigating, but they’re now concentrating on large infringers and those engaged in illegally reselling their intellectual property.

Receiving one of Getty’s threats was a chilling experience for any small business owner. Many likely paid up to get rid of the headache, but others found sites like this one where others were in a similar situation. They were able to share information and get support, and many simply refused to pay, which took the teeth out of the threat and was undoubtedly another factor in the company’s decision to curtail the practice.

So data was easily collected (image search) and easily acted upon (research, boilerplate letters).

What made the difference? Transparency. Once, small business owners might have suffered in silence because the limited number of news outlets wouldn’t have had the airtime or column inches to tell their story. Today, we have far more ways of getting a story out, and that equals greater consumer protection.

We hope it is the same with mobile data abuse. By showing where this data is going, how much, what kinds are taken, we can begin to see a change in regulations and a reduction in public tolerance for routine privacy invasion.

Data is the double-edged sword that cuts both ways. But it only works for the average user when silos are open and the user has a voice.