Personal data has an image problem – and that’s an issue for all of us

Big data is everywhere and supposedly the salve for every problem – but it’s also a noted security issue, something that can be used against us – and both of these mask its real benefits.

That’s the essential premise of this excellent article in The Huffington Post, which looks at why consumers are currently running scared of their data and not using it to its full potential.

As the author Guy Marson explains, bad news travels fast and so large-scale hacks such as Yahoo and TalkTalk are disproportionately elevated in the public consciousness. This means that potential good news stories about what benefits sharing data can bring for consumers find it significantly harder to get traction, reinforcing fears.

To quote Marson: “It’s a crying shame that the potential and opportunities of using data is not well known by the average Joe on the street.

“Our future is going to be built on data and increasing numbers of businesses are currently waking up to that fact. We just need to make sure that as we get more data-savvy, we need to bring the public along with us before they rock those foundations and bring it all crashing down around us.”

We all have a responsibility to educate consumers on the many ways in which data can be used for good – healthcare innovation, for one.

As Marson also points out: “There is definitely some give and take when using consumer data. Unfortunately, in our current climate, it seems customers get told more about the take and less about what data gives them.

“We all hate junk mail, and better use of data by business will practically do away with the spam clogging up our inboxes. At the same time, who wouldn’t be pleased to receive promotions and rewards offered exclusively to them at a time when they needed it?”

While data is certainly widely misused much of the time today, fast-evolving customer attitudes to privacy as well as incoming legislation such as the GDPR in 2018 will change that.

And the opportunity to own, and share if we choose, our own data once again will be a watershed moment.

Personal data is the new oil, the new industry megalith – but it’s one that each of us will ultimately own and control, and it will be a better world for all of us when that comes about.

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