Cause and effect – every major and minor revolution throughout history can often be reduced to these two major flashpoints. The Cause is the trigger, the event which brings years and years of discontentment with the extant state of affairs bubbling beneath the surface to a head. The Effect, on the other hand, is the transformation in prevalent paradigms that the revolution ultimately achieves.
When seen through this lens, the imminent rollout of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) could well be the trigger for an unparalleled global data revolution.
Identifying the cause: The need for a comprehensive data protection legislation such as the GDPR
Here’s the thing about data: it is just not possible to avoid it today. In the increasingly digitally-driven era we live in, every action taken by end-consumers is now a data point which organisations can leverage to enable greater personalisation into their offerings and to optimise their overall operations.
What, however, has been missing is a transparency in the way this data is collected, especially from the end-consumer’s perspective. Expressing an interest in a particular product or service, say a real-estate property, even once has traditionally been considered consent enough to be harangued till the end of infinity with related offerings. Spam mails giving interested consumers everything from affordable cruise holidays and hair transplants to pre-approved credit cards and lucrative investment options are commonplace in this digital age.
And consumer inconvenience is the least of the troubles. Major data breaches – such as the 2017 Equifax breach, the 2016 Yahoo! Breach, the 2014 eBay breach, the recent Cambridge Analytica breach – have occurred time and again, compromising sensitive information pertaining to millions and millions of individuals. In addition to leading to massive financial damages, loss of trust, and threat to the end-consumer, these breaches underline a major gap within the global business landscape; organisations often don’t place as much value on securing the critical consumer data, which is otherwise considered so critical to their business operations.
This dynamic, as can be imagined, has been quite troublesome to consumers, but there has been little they could do about their sensitive personal information in the digital domain till now. This is expected to change once the GDPR, one of the most comprehensive data privacy regulations ever designed, is enforced on May 25.
Defining the effect: How the GDPR will transform how businesses interact with consumer data
The GDPR is aimed at protecting the personally identifiable information (PII) of EU citizens, with strict regulations in place to govern the handling of any kind of data that could be used to identify data subjects. This includes data aggregation, storage, processing, or transfer. All organisations with access to the personal data of EU residents, regardless of where they are situated, are expected to comply with the GDPR; those that don’t are liable to be charged heavy fines to the tune of millions of Euros by the regulator.
The strict mandate has made businesses step back and analyse their own data processes. This has resulted in a tangible shift from the round-the-clock data aggregation approach to actually evaluating how meaningful that data is to their own operations. Questions such as “is this data really important to us” are finally being asked, helping businesses identify and cut down on the superfluous data they would have otherwise aggregated. Not only does this help in bringing down the costs of data storage, but also minimises the risk of data breach that they would be exposed to.
Furthermore, the GDPR presents a major opportunity to rebuild the trust between end-consumers and organisations. With user consent and control a prime directive mandated by the GDPR, businesses need documented consent from their target audiences at the point of data collection. They can use this to their advantage by initiating engaging two-way conversations with users. By informing users of the benefits such as hyper-personalised services/offers and curated recommendations that data opt-ins can enable, businesses can actually make their end-consumer marketing initiatives more focussed, targeted, effective, and impactful.
In its 2016 report titled 10 Key Marketing Trends For 2017, IBM Marketing Cloud estimated that the world generated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data on a daily basis. With Gartner predicting 20.8 billion connected devices to be live by 2020, a comprehensive regulation such as the GDPR is certainly a welcome development. The change that it will bring about in the modern-day data dynamics is expected to have a ripple effect across multiple geographies. The global data revolution has already started, and only those businesses which readily embrace the data framework stipulated under the GDPR will survive and thrive in both the short and the long term.