It has taken four years, but on 14th April 2016, the long awaited EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was adopted. This is the most far reaching piece of data protection legislation ever. It applies to companies serving customers in the EU and will impact organisations worldwide, including the UK (regardless of the referendum outcome). The ante has been upped in two major ways: 1) Much larger fines – up to 4% of turnover or 20M euros, 2) Stronger enforcement – meaning greater reputational risk.
Data that could be used to identify individuals is considered personal data, which means that location data (especially when combined with other data or unique identifiers) will be subject to much greater scrutiny. Individuals will have the right not to be subject to automated decision making (including profiling).
What does this mean for the emerging information ecosystem? We are entering a world in which data owners monetise their data assets, aggregators create data products sold via APIs, service providers deliver applications to customers built on this supply chain and location data is the glue that holds a lot of it together. We can expect the model of the online advertising ecosystem to become adopted by other industries. Companies up and down the chain will need to take a long hard look at their data products, information management processes and privacy measures.
The Open Rights Group and Krowdthink have joined forces to create a campaign designed to raise awareness amongst consumers of how the mobile operators capture and use personal location information. The call to action is to opt-out and instructions on how to do that are provided. But in doing so consumers will reduce both the personal value of their mobile device to them as individuals and the broader value to be gained from anonymised data aggregation. Benefits to consumers range from lower cost car insurance for teenagers, to the peace of mind that comes from knowing your child is safe, to the time saved avoiding traffic jams. More widely mass location analytics enable better urban and transport planning, reducing congestion, commute times and making cities more environmentally friendly.
So why encourage people to opt-out of sharing location information? The campaign highlights the risks of data falling in to the wrong hands, the use of data in marketing and the sale of data to third parties. These are issues that resonate with consumers. The Digital Catapult’s recent report ‘Trust in Personal Data’ identifies many concerns. Based on an Experian survey it shows, for example:
And of the sectors surveyed by Experian, telecoms companies were found to be the least trusted. Mobile Network Operators need to take time out from acquisition-related distractions and focus on what needs to be done to rebuild trust. The ORG and Krowdthink provide helpful starting points. Better articulation of the benefits and reasons for using location data; clearer explanations of security, how the data is used and how to opt-out will be a good start. Although complete integrity throughout the customer experience at every touch point will be needed to make a real difference, not just better contract language and collateral.
Andrew Keevil assists technology companies with strategy and marketing, specialising in new proposition development.