The Value of Data From a Consumer Perspective

As more consumers give up more of their personal information, they may be unaware of the value that data holds

Personal data, and the need to secure it, has been prominent in the headlines over the past year. Last July, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined Facebook $5 billion for violating privacy and mishandling users’ personal information. That same month, British Airways was hit with a fine for $228 million by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), due to a breach that compromised the personal data of 500,000 of its customers. U.S. hotel group Marriott was also fined $123 million for violating General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy rules.

As individuals get more connected online, they are generating much more data—and creating more opportunities to put that data at risk. People love the convenience that new applications and devices deliver, yet many consumers are also unaware of the sheer amount of data they collect. From smart speakers, phones and appliances to social media, cars and home security systems, people are volunteering information about themselves, their preferences and their movements like never before. According to a recent report, there are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every day. Every minute of every day, 456,000 tweets are sent on Twitter, Instagram users post 46,740 photos and 16 million text messages are sent. All this data contains a wealth of information about individuals, but many may be unaware of how it’s being used.

The Value of Data Becomes Clear

For many individuals, the devices and applications they are using are purely about convenience and productivity. When a user pulls up a web page or initiates a voice search, they may be unaware of how much of their data they are sharing.

However, consumer awareness about data is increasing and governments are now actively stepping in to provide more protection. The GDPR regulation represented a major inflection point in how governments can proactively protect citizens and their data. Adopted in 2016, with enforcement beginning in 2018, this EU law set down stringent requirements to empower people with more control over their personal data, privacy and consent.

In the U.S., the CCPA in California took a similar approach. Since going into effect at the beginning of this year, it has provided consumers the right to access, delete or opt out of data processing at any time. Residents of California have the right to know what personal data is being collected about them and the right to request that this information be deleted. They will also have the right to know the details of how their data is being used, who the data is sold to or shared with and the ability to opt out of sharing their data. More legislation is on the way in New York, Massachusetts and several other states.

A new consensus is emerging about the value of data. It carries immense potential in supporting analytics, personalization and other imperatives. Today’s consumers, especially younger individuals, increasingly expect products and services tailored to their needs. One survey found that 70% of customers say understanding how they use products and services is very important to winning their business. In fact, data is becoming so important that in many ways it can be considered an emerging currency.

Deloitte defines currency as “how we create and exchange economic value across geography and through time. It is anything that can serve as a medium of exchange, something that can be ‘cashed out’ for goods and services, or used to pay debt or to store value for future use.” When a major retailer pays a bank millions of dollars to develop targeted discount offers to customers based on their shopping habits, it’s clear that data carries real value.

Security and Integrity Are Key in a Data-driven World

As new data privacy laws emerge and people become more aware about the use and value of their data, the responsibilities of data collectors are increasing. Fundamental to the value of data is maintaining its security and integrity. Implementing proactive security measures such as public key infrastructure (PKI) can be a crucial foundation to safeguard data. PKI uses digital certificates to encrypt data in transit; authenticate devices to users, servers and other devices; and ensure that only authorized and signed code runs on the device to prevent malware and other attacks. PKI helps identify users and their devices to provide important protection.

Looking beyond technology, transparency is another key responsibility. Consumers must remain informed and demand greater transparency into how their data is being used. Businesses and manufacturers should build security and transparent collection of data into their practices. At the same time, companies should inform their customers of the processes used to keep them safe. Together, businesses and the consumers they serve can succeed in protecting the confidentiality and integrity of data, as it becomes more valuable in our dynamic, data-driven world.

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Mike Nelson

Mike Nelson is the VP of IoT Security at DigiCert, a global leader in digital security. In this role, Nelson oversees the company’s strategic market development for the various critical infrastructure industries securing highly sensitive networks and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including healthcare, transportation, industrial operations, and smart grid and smart city implementations. Nelson frequently consults with organizations, contributes to media reports, participates in industry standards bodies, and speaks at industry conferences about how technology can be used to improve cyber security for critical systems and the people who rely upon them. Nelson has spent his career in healthcare IT including time at the US Department of Health and Human Services, GE Healthcare, and Leavitt Partners – a boutique healthcare consulting firm. Nelson’s passion for the industry stems from his personal experience as a type 1 diabetic and his use of connected technology in his treatment.

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