Personal data is vital to every business. Without it, the business cannot contact the customer. They cannot refer back to previous transactions. Data is essential in helping us to buy and trade. From this information, the business can see patterns in the customer’s buying behaviour. By segmenting databases with hundreds or thousands of records, data reveals how customers behave on a larger scale.
Any time a business collects data about a person, it must be upfront about its use. The Data Protection Act prevents the unauthorised sharing of personal data, and most of us expect businesses to treat our personal information as private.
High profile uses of data often raise eyebrows. The NHS recently announced that it would sell anonymised patient data, an activity that many privacy campaigners are uneasy about. However, as we enter a new age of smart services, our personal data will inevitably travel further and be used in ways it has never been used before.
Personal data is often stored in the cloud. The cloud is a network of servers at a remote location, and its primary purpose is to provide vast offsite storage capacity at low cost.
The cloud is generally a secure place to put data, but it brings up an interesting conundrum about data storage. When a file is saved on your computer, you know where that device is – you know which laws govern it. The cloud makes this more difficult. Where is that file saved? It could be saved in multiple locations. Which territories govern the storage of that file, and how many territories did it pass through while it was being transmitted?
If you upload a photo to Facebook, for example, it could be stored in Sweden, close to the Arctic Circle, or in one of six data centres across the USA. If you book a holiday home on Airbnb, your personal data is stored by Amazon Web Services in the USA, Ireland, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Beijing – or possibly all of the above. In fact, so many large sites use Amazon Web Services, it would be practically possible for an active web user to avoid it.
The cloud is scattering personal data across the globe. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to follow its journey. For the modern web to function, there has to be an element of trust between the service user and the service.
Some people are incredibly uneasy about their data being stored in this way. They perceive the cloud to be vast and uncontrolled – a way for data to slip into the wrong hands.
Brands and businesses have a responsibility to build trust by handling data correctly.
Our use of data is becoming ever more sophisticated. Many of us have tablet PCs and smartphones with virtual assistants that can answer our questions in an instant. The internet connections in our homes are so fast, we can download gigabytes of data every day.
Soon, intelligent technologies such as Google Now will become the norm. Your tablet PC will become more helpful and more proactive, requiring less user input and offering answers to questions that have not yet been asked. The same smart software will appear in your car, your kitchen and on the subway on the way to work. Imagine traffic lights that adapted themselves to the flow of traffic, or a bathroom cabinet that knows you’re almost out of shampoo.
All of these things are not too far away, and all of them rely on data to function correctly. We are entering an age where devices understand us, and that will change the way we see our information. Rather than wanting to capture it, we will invite other organisations to use it in order to enhance our lives.
Again, responsibility lies with businesses and brands. In an interconnected world, the quality of data is the most important factor in the equation. If data quality is not up to scratch, this new, interconnected world cannot perform to its best. In some cases, the lack of accurate data could be dangerous for the people who have handed over information in good faith.
Ensuring Data Quality
As the world becomes more connected, businesses must use Data Quality Software to improve their databases and boost consumer confidence.
Data Cleansing and Deduplication is critical for customer data. By respecting customers and maintaining databases correctly, businesses can guarantee that customer data has longevity in an ever-changing world. They can protect their customers’ privacy by controlling data effectively, and they can cut the cost associated with waste and inefficiency.