Data privacy backlash could throw out the good with the bad

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Last week the UK was on track to catch up with the rest of Europe by announcing its version of the “right to be forgotten” law. This is obviously good news for privacy advocates. But you have to wonder if the backlash – if backlash it is – against overuse of people’s data will swing too far the other way and thwart the good use of data.

We have long been on the side of privacy, and have lambasted certain companies we could mention, who take customers’ data and spray it across the internet. And in so doing create multi-billion dollar advertising businesses for themselves.

Yet, just as we are praising efforts by the likes of the UK Government, and commending the efforts of some companies themselves to add privacy settings, a huge irony emerges.

We are at the stage where analytics is beginning to be understood, and used properly. We are at the stage of being able to explore the now vast quantity of data properly. AI is at the stage where fast look-up and pattern analysis makes sense.

So, just when customers are thinking, “Great, I will switch off data sharing,” that data can be used to support customers in genuinely innovative and interesting ways.

The problem stems from customers’ lack of trust in how their data is being used. They would rather not have their data used at all than be persuaded that, say, companies who know their location and preferences can actually make their lives easier and more fun.

It is also ironic that we are now entering a new and exciting age of partnerships, where, for instance, operators are now booking extra revenue from partnering with digital players.

Some excellent examples from a recent webinar and white paper include Digi in Malaysia, who offer Freedom packages, including zero rated games, video or sport. Customers can buy premium videos for a small extra amount, or they can get zero rated music if they have been with the company for six months. In short, telecoms companies are beginning to see extra revenues, greater loyalty and increasing brand value from intelligent partnerships.

It would be a pity if the privacy pendulum swung so far the other way that operators and the emerging partnerships were unable to use customers’ data for their benefit, or at all.

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