Consumers are waking up to the value of their own data

The events of the last week have brought into sharp focus the lack of awareness amongst the general public of just how their data is potentially being used for purposes beyond what, they assumed, would be deemed acceptable.
Ian Smith, CEO of Gospel Technology, ponders whether this marks a paradigm shift in the trust consumers place on the companies that collect their personal information.

As a society, we are in a crisis of trust with the brands and organisations that were once held in high regard. On Sunday, the CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg was motivated to take out full page ads in America and the UK regarding their handling of customer’s personal data and promising ‘to do better’.

The data about us as citizens, as professionals and as people is coming to light as a valuable commodity, even being lauded as the ‘new oil’.

The new generations have so far been much more free with their personal data, growing up in an age where sharing your life online is considered normal. However, whilst there is huge opportunity in data sharing at the societal and governmental level – genuinely improving our lives and communities -the approach to harvesting, consuming and processing bulk data about our lives has been welcomed with an almost frenzied clamour; an approach without regard to mutual trust and explicit consent and in a far from transparent manner. Even millenials are now starting to realise that their data is not always in their control.

It may often be perfectly legal, but the effort with which some companies avoid being transparent about how they use our data reveals an uncomfortable moral landscape.

Whilst the intent isn’t always malicious, it is clear there has been lies, deception and subterfuge as organisations have become maniacally focused on reaping the rewards of processing and analysing any data available. It may often be perfectly legal, but the effort with which some companies avoid being transparent about how they use our data reveals an uncomfortable moral landscape.

We find ourselves in a situation where regulation is attempting to catchup to an increasingly sophisticated industry by imposing stricter laws on how data is farmed and used, and indeed these will affect change in the way organisations look to collect and process data, albeit slowly.

I do believe, however, that the real change will come from the market, demanding better data practices and demanding respect for data privacy. Start-up technologies that can offer an environment where data is handled with morality and respect will win the trust of the consumer. The decentralised, social and connected individual will demand this change as they shift their usage of services based on these principles.

Better data practices where data is secured, where it is impossible for data leakage, breach or processing with explicit contextual control will enable the competitive advantage derived from the value of that data.

Data analytics and their use in marketing and influencing isn’t going to go away, and nor should it. However, corporations are rapidly losing the trust of their consumers. Services that deliver the many positive benefits that can be gleaned from data, without the exploitation of the individual, will eventually win the day.


digital economy

Ian Smith is Gospel’s CEO

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