MWC 2017: The value exchange of data privacy

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Credit: Daniel R. Blume/Flickr/REMIXED

Data privacy – it’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. And it’s one that’s been highlighted at Mobile World Congress this year. With new regulations like the EU GDPR coming into force as of May 25, 2018, I felt particularly compelled to attend the session on the second day of the conference titled “Consumer Data: Privacy and Opportunity.”

Moderated by Fatemah Khatibloo, principal analyst at Forrester Research, the session delved into the push-and-pull battle between businesses and consumers. Businesses, on the one hand, want to collect, analyze and use personal data to personalize the customer experience and deliver targeted marketing. Meanwhile, consumers want to feel safe, secure and prevent their sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands – and potentially resulting in fraud, identity theft or worse.

Early on in the panel session, Rimma Perelmuter, CEO and global board director at the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF), brought up a very important point. She said, “The landscape has really shifted and this has led to the rise of the reluctant sharer. Consumers are increasingly concerned about privacy and security given the Snowden and Trump world we live in. They might not know exactly what privacy really means, but they know there’s a creepiness factor.” This is so true and it reflects what I’ve been seeing for years.

While consumers may not know the necessary precautions they should be taking to protect their data, they’re aware of a bigger problem. And this has a lot to do with the rising number of data breaches each year. In 2016, for example, there was a record high of 1,093 U.S. data breaches, according to a recent report from Identity Theft Resource Center and CyberScout.

Rimma Perelmuter, CEO and global board director at the Mobile Ecosystem Forum

But then something happened in the panel session that surprised and alarmed me. Khatibloo interjected and asked the audience to raise their hands if they are familiar with and understand the upcoming data privacy legislation, EU GDPR. As I raised my hand in the air, I looked around and saw that scarcely one-third, if even that, of the audience had raised their hands. It just reiterates how unaware, unprepared and at risk companies will find themselves when the legislation goes into effect on May 25, 2018.

But there was one small shining light in the session and it was Ludovic Levy, vice president of Global Data Strategy & Governance at telecommunications provider Orange. Being the lone telecommunications provider on the stage, Levy is the exception, not the norm, in his thought process and approach to managing data. He described how data privacy is considered a business driver at Orange. He put it in such simple but poignant terms that I hope other telecommunications providers take the lead from his example.

Levy explained, “The more our customers trust us with the capacity to protect their personal data, the more eager they are to share their data with us. And the more they share with us, the more we can leverage their data to improve the customer experience and services we deliver to our customers to personalize offers, better target our advertising, and at the end of the day, improve the experience. The more the experience is improved, the more they trust us – so we’re closing the loop.”

This is such a smart and unselfish way for a telecommunications provider to think about data. Rather than only seeing it as an opportunity and commodity, Orange seems to understand that without customer trust, they won’t have a business to grow and could even fall into serious trouble with regulators for violating data privacy regulations like EU GDPR.

And so, the value exchange of data privacy has to be all about transparency, integrity and competence. Without the three of these working in tandem with each other, companies will struggle to maintain customer trust, let alone drive their business into future growth.

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