The Chinese approach to data governance is being watched closely by the rest of the world. First, it endorses the concept that data is of significant value and second it is a draconian approach to the problem.
It was some time ago that China started to put together a national policy on harnessing the value of data and more recently declared it the ‘fifth factor’ of productivity, alongside labour, technology, land and capital.
On the face of it, the Chinese approach seems a strict but effective way of dealing with the runaway success of its big tech companies, who have made huge sums from data.
One problem with the Chinese approach, though, is the knock on effects and its impact on overseas companies. Audits and other regulatory restrictions will apply to overseas companies who have operations in China.
The other problem with the Chinese approach is that it undermines customer trust in big brands. Those customers are now more than wary about the Government being in charge of their information. The effect can be seen in the stocks and entire stock indexes that have taken the hit.
In many people’s eyes it amounts to state surveillance and is a huge blow from freedom of, well, everything.
The question is: if the Chinese approach is too draconian, what is the right balance?
The answer is not simple and has been made vastly more complicated by big companies, social media ones particularly, playing fast and loose with their customers’ data.
We are now at a point where journalists like us, asked what we do, tell the supper party guests and, instead of a polite pause and a change of subject, a new conversation starts about how horrid Facebook, Twitter et al are. And how dare they use our data for their own ends, with their spooky advertising practices. ‘Just the other day, I was talking to my wife about perfume and an advert turned up the next day…’
The issue is now getting people riled up, which is the point when something needs to be done. And this will make the Chinese approach meet with sympathy in many quarters.
Whatever happens around the world, we must be getting to a point where the companies responsible need to come up with ways of giving value back to the customer for use of their data.
Data protection regulation has no teeth. Every site has a notice about cookies yet we all know that the terms and conditions really mean ‘click accept or you can’t use our stuff.’
Right now, we have the Chinese approach at the enforcement end of the scale and the slowly emerging approach of Vendor Management at the enablement end of the scale.
Where most of the solutions will end up is not clear, what is clear is that it is time to do something – and something effective – to stop the ‘barbaric growth’ of the big tech titans.
Related article: Data is becoming a critical battleground between China and the US