Opinion

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Companies that safeguard data privacy will reap rewards

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Today’s connected consumers expect services to be seamless, unobtrusive, and delivered on their own and exacting terms. In exchange for an enticing combination of convenience, value for money, varied payment methods and an engaging experience – they are happy to part with personal data.

This can be particularly fruitful for the retail industry, where businesses thrive on delivering a personalised service. Digital data enables retailers to optimise every aspect of the customer experience, from visual merchandising campaigns to crowd control.

At Osborne Clarke, we’re excited by the commercial opportunities offered in this brave new world of data-led connectivity. It’s both impossible and undesirable to ignore the alacrity of change we’re experiencing, and so we commissioned a report to help businesses from all sectors harness their digital power.

However, before businesses can truly capitalise on these novel innovations, customers need reassurances about how their data is being handled.

For example, our findings revealed that only 11 per cent of UK consumers don’t mind how their shopping behaviours are tracked. When it comes to actually making a purchase, 26.4 per cent of UK consumers said they were comfortable sharing their personal data.

Ultra-personal information

With more information than ever at our fingertips, humanity’s thirst for knowledge has perhaps never been greater – which could explain the rapid rise of wearable “health” technologies.

The likes of smartwatches and fitness trackers are taking widespread connectivity to brand new levels, gifting companies with an unprecedented amount of information concerning their customers. However, this also presents a huge potential risk due to the sensitivity of the data collected.

Among UK consumers, fitness trackers are the most popular pieces of wearable technology: 12.3 per cent use a fitness tracker, five per cent a health tracker. However, such prevalence inevitably provokes questions around how data from these devices is collected, stored and distributed.

Alarmingly, only 55 per cent of customers who own a piece of wearable technology are aware of how their data will be used and shared. It is important that companies in this sector seek to build trust by ensuring users are made aware of how their data is being used, inviting their consent through rigorous and ethical data collection processes.

Read more on the use of data:

Internet of hackable things

In fact, one of the burgeoning issues facing businesses that build Internet of Things (IoT) products is data privacy and usage. With the potential for everything from dustbins to cars becoming connected, many traditional companies will all of a sudden find themselves as custodians of personal data.

This has the potential to put these organisations in an uncomfortable position, having to rewrite processes and adhere to emerging regulation that might once have not been on their radar.

Again, this is where the twin importance of informed consent and data security comes into play. Indeed, our findings revealed that, for 26.6 per cent of UK consumers, understanding exactly how their data was to be used in advance is fundamental. With more than 4.6bn connected “things” in use worldwide, this is only going to grow in prominence as an issue.

Continue reading on the next page for the six-point problem prevention plan for data protection.

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