When it comes to data protection, companies should focus on big data trends and think about what careful stewardship of customer information looks like in that context

With data management, it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. Seminars and presentations on data privacy tend to focus on smaller challenges – how to implement frameworks for proper collection and storage, manage the cross-border transmission of data, and how and when to destroy collected data.

While not trivial subjects, these are not the main issues consumers, corporations or even societies should be overly invested in.

Big data can provide insights and correlations

Photo: Shutterstock

The macro trend is a digital revolution which sees increases in computational power in mobile devices, the rise of social media, significant advances in analytics and the wider applications of artificial intelligence. So it is more appropriate to broaden the conversation to big data when we consider data protection.

In the future, where data is ubiquitous, we wrestle primarily with the implications that flow from this proliferation of big data. These implications stem from greater collection, greater sharing and greater processing of widely available information.

At some point in time, everything will become a sensor, collecting information about the environment and people’s actions. With the Internet of Things, all these sensors will also be networked.

Coupled with social media, these networked devices will also be sharing data with all kinds of other networks, devices and platforms. Big data analytics engines will pore over that data, looking for insights and correlations.

Big data enables the transformation of banking

Photo: NUS

The banking sector will not be spared. It will be increasingly feasible to make banking “invisible” – to be embedded seamlessly into the customer’s day-to-day tasks and way of life. Each of us have life objectives – retirement, purchasing a car or saving for our children’s education, yet few of us go about each of these tasks deliberately in an organised fashion.

While great product and process design can make customers happier, data is the oil that enables this transformation of the banking experience.

With data, when you visit a car showroom, it will be possible to process and pre-approve your car loan so that you can focus on buying the car that you want, instead of worrying and doing the sums on whether you can pay it off. With data, budget planning can be done predictively, with a clear picture of your likely monthly inflow and outflow of funds.

This is not a phenomenon limited to banking, for the entire world is headed in that direction. It is happening in a very subtle way – in fact the average consumer may not be completely aware of how we have already given away a lot of our data for very mundane reasons, whether to play Pokemon Go, post on Instagram, watch a smart TV, or track our movements using a Fitbit.

Data collection is commonplace, and it is not likely that we can draw good, informed boundaries around how and when our data is collected or used. In fact, this trend will render ideas of requiring informed consent from consumers to share their data pointless.

We can draw a parallel with how customer behaviour evolved with software end-licence user agreements: If someone really wanted the benefit of an application or a device, they would consent regardless, and would do so in a less than discerning way.

Companies must design policies to inspire consumer confidence and trust