January 3rd 2015 and I am already feeling the draw of data. I made a promise to myself when I left my last role in data, I would take a break from hypothesising about the insights data can deliver to brands and businesses.
Yet here we are 5 weeks on, Christmas and New Year celebrations just over and I am already hypothesising – this time about equities! I am not about to give away my idea on how I think you can predict the stock market, but to say it involves easily accessible data such as social sentiment, economic data and a few simple rules!
This then got me thinking about the right to be forgotten and the GDPR debate plus a book I read in the summer of 2014, called The Circle by Dave Eggers.
“The Circle is a work so germane to our times that it may well come to be considered as the most on-the-money satirical commentary on the early internet age.”
Edward Docx, The Guardian October 2013.
This book has made me challenge my ethics when it came data mining and what me and my colleagues were trying to do to better understand human behaviour and how we could use gentle nudges to influence that behaviour. Reading this book, has helped me understand why new regulations (like the [potential] forthcoming GDPR) are needed to catch up with the digital age.
But if trust in organisations declines and people start to go off grid, as per the Circle, a digital society may be halted and we all suffer – society, business and the people themselves.
I accept that we want to hide certain things about ourselves, but we need to help business, brands and even governments understand more about us so we can receive better services, messages and value. But for this to work, we have to trust the organisations with our data and be in control of how our personal data is being used (both obtained and received) and for what purpose. I’m not just talking about targeted sales messages about the latest Rapha cycling bib shorts (in the case of this author), but preventative messages such as health related ones. These could be based on data shared from something like a Garmin, profile data; including age, sex, where we live, the restaurants and pubs we visit as well as the frequency! This may seem like big brother, but it then comes down to how this data is used ethically and the way the message is presented to help better people’s lives. What I mean by this is simple, the message shouldn’t say…we know you visit the pub 3 times a week and your average heart rate when cycling on the flat looks pretty worrying! But a service message advising a general health check at the local health centre, together with a map and simple booking procedure. (If only I could get past the receptionist at our health centre!!!).
The upsides of sharing and giving permission to use our data are huge. The two use cases above would help us because I’d only get ads I’m interested in, and if we could prevent more illness by identifying at risk individuals and screening earlier, the burden on the health service could be significantly reduced saving hundreds of millions of pounds (as well as lives saved).
As a data practitioner I am in total agreement with the rules that we abide by when managing and processing data, but too often we tend to focus on the downsides of sharing personal data and how we store and protect it and not enough time delivering the true value and benefits that can be delivered from trusted data.
With the GDPR (still in draft) looking likely to be a focus for many organisations in the years to come, I believe it should be embraced and leveraged so all organisations can become trusted data stewards and grow by building trust with their consumers, patients, customers [etc], by putting their data into their hands and empower them to use it.
The personal data revolution is happening, and I have a sneaky feeling something big is about to happen.
Happy New Year!
J Cromack January 3rd 2015