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Why data privacy isn’t just a compliance concern, it’s an essential asset

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(Image credit: Shutterstock / Gorodenkoff)

Staying connected to each other online during the national lockdown has been essential for our health and wellbeing. For many of us, we spend our weeks looking forward to a zoom call with the family or an online quiz with friends. Covid-19 has accelerated our use of social media, but that’s not the only thing. Now, we’re also logging in remotely to our work applications, attending virtual conferences and events, accessing home learning tools for our children, downloading various apps and increasing our shopping online. As a result, an enormous amount of data is being generated. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, the global volume of data is predicted to double between 2018 and 2022, and then double again between 2022 and 2025. 

We trust companies with a sizable amount of our personal data, but still, it’s become the norm to wake up to headline news of yet another data breach. For some of these data breaches, we’re only now beginning to see the extent of the repercussions. Take British Airways for example. The company has just made legal history as it faces the single largest group claim in UK legal history, following the 2018 breach that saw many of its passengers having had their personal and financial information compromised. The repercussions of this breach under GDPR have set the tone for 2021 and beyond. Data risk is something to be taken seriously. Data can either be an asset, or a risk. It’s up to each individual business how they make use of it.

This year, data privacy day, which was ‘celebrated’ back in January felt no different to any other day. And this is exactly as it should be. Data privacy should not be a once-a-year consideration. The consequences of poor data management don’t last for one day, they can last a lifetime when it comes to consumer trust. An RSA Security study found that 82 percent of UK respondents would boycott a company that demonstrated they have no regard for protecting customer data. So, what are the implications, and how can businesses ensure data is their best asset?

Data drives competitive differentiation

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated many digital transformation initiatives, including a shift to the Cloud. High quality, trustworthy data is seen as a valued and significant asset. By becoming more data-driven and utilizing the insights from data, businesses will more readably be able to solve complex problems, make fact-based decisions and drive competitive differentiation. In a world where buying decisions are now driven by a consumer’s digital experience, an organization’s ability to maintain and leverage high quality data has become the differentiator.

But a business can never forget their custodianship responsibility when using their customers data.  Improved quality and governance of data provides additional benefits to businesses such as increased customer engagement, purchasing confidence and trust. You only need to look at the consumer outcry a couple of weeks ago when WhatsApp announced it was changing its privacy rules around encrypted data, to know that consumers are keeping a close eye on how businesses use, store and manage their data. It matters.

As data resources continue to expand in both volume and complexity, organizations need to invest in technology that will provide them with a robust data privacy governance solution. This is key in ensuring that data used is of the right quality, is accessible when and where it is needed and that it comes complete with all the required privacy and compliance measures in place. Using such a data-centric security paradigm that takes a holistic approach will enable businesses to have full control, access and use of information from across the enterprise.

This will, in turn, offer the business numerous benefits. For instance, it frees up project team resource, enabling teams to work faster, with greater freedom and improved agility, allowing for greater efficiencies. It also helps to drive key strategic business initiatives such as new product and services innovation and supply chain optimization. In addition, it helps power customer experience initiatives as it facilitates a more compelling, personalized experience which increases engagement and sales. All whilst ensuring data is used responsibly to preserve customer rights across commerce channels. 

The answer is in the cloud

To be truly agile and innovative in today’s business environment, companies need their data to be unified, high quality and easily accessible. This is challenging as data today is proliferating everywhere from on-premise and across multiple clouds and systems. While the source of all that data may be fragmented, businesses will benefit from having a single data management capability within their organization, to improve data steward productivity and enhance analytics capabilities. This is where cloud-first, cloud-native data governance solutions that leverage the power of AI and automation have an advantage.

Businesses need to build and manage a foundation of intelligent data governance. They also need to conduct a data audit of sensitive information - which historically would have been a manual, laborious and time-consuming process. This can then be catalogued automatically using AI and metadata-driven discovery tools. In doing so, it becomes much faster to manage larger, globally dispersed and fragmented data sets. These tools also mean that businesses will always have access to the most up to date and relevant information that supports high quality decisions and analytics initiatives. Additionally, by making data easier to find, understand and curate it also ensures it is not vulnerable to attack in any form. This means that as well as optimizing business processes for greater efficiencies, these AI-driven data privacy management capabilities will also enable customers to accelerate compliance with current and emerging regulations.

As we continue to live our lives online, we’re only going to generate more and more data. In a report published by IDC, the amount of digital data generated - in what is known as the datasphere - will grow to 175 zettabytes by 2025. Businesses have the increased responsibility of data stewardship in ensuring this data is kept safe and that it is only used for permitted purposes that align to customer instructions and comply with regulations. By doing this, organizations will not only gain customer loyalty, trust and retention, but create better customer experiences and business outcomes.

Greg Hanson, VP EMEA, Informatica