In data we trust? If only that was true

It’s hard to find a positive side to the numerous data breaches experienced in the last year. The statistics make for grim reading: security issues in 2018 compromised the personal information of millions of people, with some of the world’s biggest brands, like T-Mobile, Quora, Google, and Orbitz all falling victim to high profile breaches. Facebook dealt with a slew of major incidents that affected more than 100 million users, and its scandal with Cambridge Analytica dominated front pages all over the world for several weeks.

But if there’s one silver lining to all the negative data news over the last year, it’s that it’s caused businesses and law makers alike to think more carefully about the personal data, how it’s being used and who actually owns it. And more widely, it’s led us to question the usefulness of data in business if consumers fundamentally don’t trust the industry.

Why data issues can bring down the business

 

We all know that data has transformed the way the world does business. Today, primarily because of a move to more online customer engagement, the volume of available customer data points has swelled exponentially and companies can spot trends that might otherwise go unnoticed. Using data in the right way, businesses can better understand, segment, target and even retain their customer base.

So data is crucial to proactive and reactive customer relationships, but it doesn’t stop there. Operationally, business intelligence, tracking and planning is now significantly better, and in recognition of the importance of data, businesses are developing stand-alone data departments. Indeed, the most forward-looking firms are also appointing Chief Data Officers who report directly to the CEO.

But the cost of getting data wrong is high. The monetary and reputational damage caused by breaches are difficult to absorb for businesses, and quality issues affect trust and perception by consumers, who are increasingly aware of the value of their own data. Indeed, most firms will concede that inaccurate data will undermine their ability to provide an optimum customer experience – and that can be make or break.

And, despite its importance, data acquisition, quality control and management are areas that many firms still struggle with – and security breaches and stories of misuse are still rife. Indeed, many will also admit they are struggling to meet data regulations, such as complex GDPR requirements.

What can we do about it?

The good news is that out of these challenges come opportunities. Indeed the problems aren’t even new –  companies have always been blighted by data quality issues, it’s simply that this culmination of new regulations and increased customer scrutiny is making it operationally critical for them to get their data management right.

And that’s where the opportunities come in. Businesses who gather, consolidate and store data in a transparent and shareable way won’t only meet stringent legislative requirements, but also have a crucial  opportunity to engage with customers and build loyalty.

So how do they do it? For us, it’s most important that businesses work with their customers to provide a more transparent and equitable way of handling consumer information.

Cyber security is a big part of this. Many firms have already migrated to using stronger encryption and password requirements as well as updating all their SSL certificates. Savvy businesses enable multi-factor authentication in every service. Some commit to “whitewashing” confidential information so that it is anonymously stored. And most have robust and scalable business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) processes in place. This is a great start – but beyond having these measures in place, it’s crucial that companies take the opportunity to shout about them. PR-ing your commitment to keep data safe is crucial to building consumer trust.

Another approach, and one that is particularly close to our hearts, is ensuring that consumers are fundamentally paid and rewarded for giving up their data in the first place. This goes beyond securing and properly using metadata within an organisation, and considers those users who ultimately fuel the industry by opting in (or out) of data capture mechanisms

This is the reason we launched GeoDB, a decentralized protocol which functions as a self sufficient marketplace, connecting the users who generate the data to the companies who need it. The user, simply by being part of the protocol, will automatically receive payment in the form of a crypto token, the GEO Token, that can be redeemed for other currencies or used to pay for day-to-day mobile services. And businesses can access data quickly, ensuring it’s accurate and useful.

GeoDB provides a streamlined and low-friction process for sellers, but we think it’s usefulness will go beyond the services itself – acting as a prompt for the entire industry to change the way it works with users. Today, the users, the rightful owners of the data, go unrewarded and feel out of control – and those that want the data need to wait months or years and pay a high price for access. Indeed, often small and medium businesses aren’t able to access big data sellers at all due to entry barriers regarding the size of the deals. And fundamentally, this needs to change.

So, untangling the mess that is consumer trust in data is no easy feat, but it’s one which needs to happen. For companies the choice is simple – if you can’t get your customers to trust that you’ll responsibly handle their data, you could lose their business entirely. And if you can’t get your hands on accurate information in the first place, your entire business could fail.

And that’s why it’s time for a new approach.

Author: Yash Hirani

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