Will DataGate present opportunities to revalue customer data?

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This may look very like yet another article about Facebook and the aftershocks of DataGate. Actually it isn’t, although the events that DataGate has unleashed are already beginning to take shape.

For one thing, everyone is now talking about privacy – and not always in the way you might expect. Businesses have their collective heads in their collective hands because the things that they were able to do by using people’s data they will soon no longer be able to. GDPR, although years in the planning, has come at a terrible time – a time of paranoia about data usage.

Take two businesses that have roughly mutual customers and want to do synergistic things to gain more business. Business A might suggest sending customers in a specific region, with specific interests (Art and Antiques, say) a leaflet promoting Business B (that sells Arts and Antiques). Business A wants to do this because it sells insurance, and sending flyers to customers about how great their insurance is seems, frankly, pretty boring. So why not send a leaflet about a business that their customers are interested in, while keeping their own name front and center in their minds, without boring them?

Telcos, banks and many other industries will find the simplest of these kinds of synergies becoming impossible to exploit. As one telco representative said at a conference recently, “I only wish our customers understood the value of their data – to them”.

Except, soon, they won’t be able to do anything like this without their customers’ express permission. And after DataGate who would say yes to the sort of question that asks, “Can we use your data in conjunction with carefully selected third parties?”

Here’s a hint: a fresh consumer survey from Harris and sponsored by IBM suggests that in the US alone, 75% of respondents said they will not buy a product from a company if they don’t trust the company to protect their data. And 20% “completely trust” organizations to do so.

As a result of DataGate, a chain of restaurants in the UK has seen the writing on the wall and are making a virtue (and getting a load of publicity) by saying that their headquarters and all their outlets will no longer use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or any other social media channel. They want people to sit and eat and enjoy meals with their families rather than sit staring at phones. Others might follow suit.

More and more articles are advocating switching off social media, taking time offline, kicking the habit, like it is a drug. (Many would say it is.)

Parents will use DataGate as an powerful argument to get their children to spend less time on their phones and more time learning the piano, say, or taking up tennis.

And we are all beginning to turn against ‘those sociopaths in Southern California’ who do stuff and invent stuff because it is cool, and damn the societal consequences. The people we thought were cool not very long ago now inspire articles with headlines like “Just how corrupt is Silicon Valley?”.

The pendulum is swinging and will swing faster than we predicted because there is a pent up need to regain control of the real things in life.

As one futurist said not so long ago, “Soon, being able to disconnect will become a luxury.”

Given recent events, it may actually become a differentiator – and sooner than we think.

The question is – what opportunities does this present? Family values, trust, real friends?

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