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The evolution of collective data – Balancing value with privacy and security

You may have read the statistic that every human on the planet will create approximately 1.7Mb of information every second. At Blue Door Expo in October 2020, we hosted a panel group that considered the role that data plays in all our lives, as well as how to place a value on our personal data.

Listen to the Blue Door Podcast, episode 15: ‘Data driven insights: finding the algorithm within’

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The panel started with a fundamental question – how have attitudes about data changed in recent years?

Data as a company asset

Davin Crowley-Sweet, from Highways England, suggested that something fundamental has changed. Where companies used to regard data as a by-product of a process, there’s a growing appreciation of the insights gained from data from a number of expanding sensors and IoT devices, and how those data sources help to develop a digital echo of the real world. Even as we aggregate and anonymise data, analytics allows us to understand better what is happening today, what can be done to make improvements, and even how to prioritise and achieve it.

There’s a growing awareness that as more data sources come together, think data pools growing into data lakes, and data lakes growing into data oceans, the opportunities provided by that data must be carefully aligned with the expectation that’s is also secure, managed effectively and used appropriately.

Louise Maynard-Atem, Innovation Specialist at Experian, agreed. People are starting to become conscious of what their own data is actually worth, and how it can be traded to procure goods and services. It’s a marked change from a few years ago, when we hadn’t really considered who owns our data, or who can legitimately use it.

“We’re at the very start of a wave that is seeing people take ownership of their data and understand that they have rights over its use.”

The value of data

Chaminga Chandratillake, Chief Analytics Officer at Sainsbury’s, agreed that people have come to realise the huge value of their individual data. He’s noticed how personal data has increasingly been exchanged and is glad that governments and organisations are stepping up to ensure privacy is prioritised. The condition for any organisation is that you must provide a genuine and compelling benefit in exchange for offering up personal information. For a brand like Sainsbury’s, trust is essential: Your customer must trust that you will do the right thing regarding their data, as well as offer something of value to you in return.

The impact of breaches and legislation

David Jones, Senior VP of IT at AEG, suggested that a handful of high profile data breaches, as well as new legislation and regulations, have created an awareness that is driving a change in people’s perception:

“Over the last few years a number of breaches have raised awareness with the public about how businesses use their data, and what that means for them. At the same time, where governments have focused on how they can regulate to protect people’s data, such as with legislation like GDPR in Europe, the effect has been to raise awareness about the value of personal data.”

It’s caused people worldwide to appreciate the value of their own personal data, and how it’s used by business and government departments. Historically, for example, David noticed that their customers in Germany were more privacy conscious than, say, customers in the US, a reference to how use of data once impacted entire communities, leading to legitimate concerns and considerations about how and individual’s privacy must be protected. Then new data protection legislation called CCPA was introduced in California, and the landscape changed, providing further protection to individual’s ownership of their own data, and reinforcing the foundations for every individual’s right to privacy.

Within O2’s Business division, we have a team working on our O2 Motion service, which uses anonymised and aggregated data created by the mobile phone network to offer insight into movement trends across the UK. Data insights we share never allow identification or mapping of individuals, and operate within strict privacy guidelines, but still helps in, for example, smart city planning and defining appropriate infrastructure needs and support across the UK – a topic we discuss in Episode 12 of our Blue Door Podcast series focussed on smart cities and infrastructure.

Our panel moved on to consider how their organisations use data to make their operations more effective, and how AI, RPA (robotic process automation), chatbots and other technologies have a future within each of their organisations to deliver better services to customers and citizens.

You can watch the full panel discussion on our YouTube channel, and we also focus on this panel discussion in Episode 15 of the Blue Door Podcast, which you can stream, download or subscribe to here.

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