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Back to the Future’ with digital data protection

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Category : Blogs

Data, data, everywhere!

As more companies become eager to understand, and get the most out of their data, we’ve seen a huge growth in customer behaviour data analysis. But it’s not only transactional histories that interest organisations now; clickstream data is the new focus. This reveals exactly what we click on during our online journeys. As our data-driven world matures, companies are realising that vital information could lie in yet unexplored data sets.

The trend for big data analysis is making an appearance across various aspects of each of our lives…

Health firms regularly analyse huge volumes of medical records in search of patterns that may identify predictions or preventions. Adding location and travel data to this analysis could potentially unearth even more valuable information.

There’s more. As the cost of web and data storage decreases, the things we use in our day-to-day lives become increasingly connected. Soon, our rubbish bins may be able to tell us when to reorder the products we have just finished and thrown away and our water tanks might warn us if they’re about to overflow!

Clearly, analysis of all this data could be immensely beneficial to society as well as individuals.

How private is your data?

An opposing force is privacy. In the last few years, we have seen cookie laws across Europe force changes to website tracking. Legislators have generally taken an intelligent and pragmatic view in order to strike a balance between the invasion of privacy and the potential for value.

Online, this balance used to be controlled by the browser or system manufacturers; your browser allows different settings so that you can deny certain apps or web sites the ability to record your data. But this seemed like it was mostly for the benefit of the system manufacturers, who could claim they were looking after customers whilst saving money by not investing in new development in that area.
Interestingly, there are now new businesses emerging that enable individuals to take control of their data more actively, and at their heart is a very old principle – the locker.

Data locker businesses have developed over the last few years. They enable their customers to manage their digital data, empowering users to choose what parts of their digital profile they want to share with different companies or organisations. These, and only these, are then accessible. Rather than filling in lots of forms that require banking information, for example, you could simply allow that part of your data – from your data locker – to be shared.

This puts the ownership of the data very squarely back in the hands of the individual to which it relates. But it does this in a way that is remarkably “old-school”. Everyone understands how lockers work (from their school days, if nothing else) so this digital environment seems easily comprehensible. It’s very much back to the future.

How would this change behaviour?

This move towards (and back!) to the digital locker would make analysing customer data much more complex for organisations. Suddenly a separate service would be involved, which would protect certain parts of the customer’s data record, but allow access to others. Some might share their postcode, others might not.

Perhaps of greater significance, however, would be its impact on consumer activity. Frankly, thus far, data lockers have had a limited effect on the mainstream of digital data. Data locker companies have been around for several years, and yet most people have not even heard of them, let alone considered them, and even fewer have tried them.

I think that’s the largest issue. Intrinsically, we all understand the concept of a locker, and, if asked, I’m sure most people would say it’s really important to have the power to lock away your valuables: your data and with it, your identity. Like you do when you go to the gym – it’s no different.

But people don’t seem make that connection. They don’t perceive that their data is unguarded on the internet. Rightly or wrongly, they generally trust the web sites they visit and forget that their data might need protection.

It currently feels like it might take something of an act of God for people to get data smart and start using data lockers. That might just jump-start the industry, and take it back to the future.

Somewhere, someone is perhaps starting up the DeLorean and waiting for the lightning bolt to hit the clock tower!

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