Privacy, where is it heading?

31 August 2017

Article written by Jeanine Schoonemann, Principal Consultant

In our field of data analysis, we are seeing changes come and go at an increasing pace. It is becoming increasingly difficult to identify which changes are permanent and worth paying attention to. We want to help with that, and so in a series of blogs we are setting out a number of trends that we think are worthwhile. In this blog: privacy.

For a very long time we have been covering ourselves up with clothes and been selective about who we expose ourselves to. Being in the digital world was – and is – quite the opposite. In this world, we are shameless data naturists and mindlessly click away any notifications about what data we are giving away. Not because we aren’t interested, but often because we can’t otherwise access whatever we are trying to get into. Of course, we do worry about privacy, but not if it means we can’t use that fun and/or useful app. And anyway, who’s going to even use that data, surely we’re not actually that interesting?

Until we find out we might actually be pretty interesting after all. For example, there was the plan that ING devised three years ago to allow customers to receive offers from commercial players. They were only going to do it after explicit consent from the customers themselves. But with the storm of protests that it provoked, the plan was soon abandoned. Our privacy is sometimes very close to home.

Thanks to the watchdogs and government bodies, the use of customer data is restricted and there are curbs on what can be done. Therefore government bodies are helping to make sure we don’t run around naked in the digital world. However, as a company, how do you make sure that you are meeting your customers’ expectations concerning their privacy? Because no matter how straightforward the issue of privacy appears – as long as you obey the law you’ll be OK – the story of ING provides a clear example of how even if you do comply with the law you can still not meet customers’ expectations. And those expectations are one thing the media are often heavily involved in.

For a start, privacy is a subjective concept. Your dentist using your data to send you a reminder every six months is generally accepted. If IKEA were to do that, it would suddenly be quite different, even though the “technique” is exactly the same. The big difference is that we agreed to the reminder from the dentist… and that it has become habit. Privacy is clearly also a matter of “what you agree to” and “what is normal or natural”. This is something that many companies still fail to fully grasp. The first piece of advice we could give, therefore, is above all to think about what customers want and prefer concerning their privacy relating directly to the company.

It may also be a good idea for customers to take more control of their own data, which allows companies to help customers to keep their modesty, as it were, in the digital world. Then customers can choose for themselves what clothes (level of coverage) to have: they might let some companies see them “naked” whilst others might not be allowed to see anything more than their face. As was reported recently in the Financieele Dagblad, a first step in this direction has been made by ProSiebenSat.1, RTL Deutschland and United Internet. They are building a pan-European log-in system in order to give all visitors to their websites full control of their personal data. This phenomenon is also known as a Personal Data Service (PDS).

On top of the positive image that this gives a company, it also makes the company ready for the future. This is because the current trend is moving in the direction of government bodies having more and more to say about privacy and also increasingly placing constraints on the use of data. Perhaps this is patronising, unless things continue moving in the same direction as they appear to be now, i.e. customers increasingly becoming administrators of their own data and so can grant or deny specific access to certain sections of data.


Do you want to know more about this subject? Please contact Jeanine Schoonemann using the details below

Jeanine Schoonemann, Principal Consultant

+31 6 55 89 75 12

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