How privacy will shape the future of business

If you didn’t already know this week is privacy week 2015 – An initiative of APPA (Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities). Privacy has been a key issue of late particularly with the introduction of the Metadata legislation and recent stories about the growing amount of personal data being stored in the cloud.

Watching

This is going to be one of the most challenging obstacles for businesses and online services growth over the next five years. The main drivers of concern are what, where and when personal data is captured and stored, and who has access to it. With a tangled web of corporate and affiliate relationships managing our personal data it is very difficult for consumers to understand what is being stored and for what purpose!

As big data and predictive analytics becomes more of a commercial attraction there is a growing demand for consumer information. These ever-increasing appetites for personal data will inevitably raise awareness amongst the general population. As a consequence more questions will get asked, until it reaches a tipping point. What and when that tipping point will be remains to be seen. But I suspect it will eventuate in stronger legislation around who owns your personal data.

A recent story where a journalist battled for almost 2 years to get access to his metadata stored by Telstra shows how difficult it is to get access to your own personal information. Now the precedent has been set, this will no doubt continue to shake things up in the Australian market.

A recent survey conducted by Intel Security for privacy week showed that

“…40% of Australians feel there are appropriate existing privacy laws in place and 75% failed to name any government policies. Furthermore only 7% could recall ‘The Privacy Act’ and despite recent exposure and debate, only 1% mentioned the metadata laws.” (http://intelsecurityapac.com/2015/paw/, last accessed 6th may 2015)

Does this mean we are complacent about our personal data, far from it, it means we do not understand what our rights are or what the data is being used for. I predict this will change and will be driven by consumer feeling that something is being given away for free, and, yes you guessed it, cold hard cash!

If someone was using your data to help make money would you not want a piece of the pie? If the government doesn’t move with the times and better educate the population, I predict commercial entities and service providers will start to pop up, and they already have, to help protect citizens from “data theft” and help them regain commercial ownership of their data.

For example, Datacoup out of the US is a service that “empowers you to take control, and enabling you to sell that data on your own terms to third parties.” (http://datacoup.com, last accessed 6th of may 2015).

In a world where shared economies and services like Airbnb and Uber are exploding at break neck speed I can see a world where personal data will eventually become its own currency.

As a research organisation at GroupQuality we use jargon like big data, analytics and sentiment analysis every day, but we never forget about the people and the lives that this information belongs to.

I often see both market and social research projects that assume respondents know how the information will be used, how long it will be stored and who will get access to it. A growing number of international online service providers enter the Australian market without considering local privacy legislation, or informing client’s in which country the data will be stored.

So in this week of privacy awareness, take a step back when gathering consumer data and ask yourself these simple questions. Do I need this information? Have I made it clear how the data will be used? Have I made it clear where it will be stored and who will have access to it?

Steven Mallows is the Research Director at GroupQuality: Agile Qualitative & Quantitative Market Research Software & Services.

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