Big Data: How Companies Are Leveraging Our Consumer Footprint

As the modern consumer moves throughout everyday life, an astounding amount of data is created. Where you eat, what you buy, what you Google, every exchange creating a ripple in the big data sea. While some view this as a breach of privacy, it is inevitably here to stay. The private sector has acknowledged this and is making strides to capture, analyze, and leverage this data. This means consumers have to know their data is being collected, and trust the company doing the collecting. The modern consumer’s skepticism of bulk data collection is driving these data companies to focus branding on consumer trust.

The ability to really collect big data only came to be after the maturity of the mobile technology. Phone apps and websites began this trend as the main channels of collection, but more recently, intelligent technologies have broadened the scope of collectable data. With location, timing, and preference related data, companies are offering value for this in the form of a more targeted and enhanced user experience.

In the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review, 900 people from five different countries were surveyed about their attitudes towards data collection. In all five countries, (U.S., China, India, Great Britain, and Germany), government identification and credit card information were most valuable when people were asked to say how much they would pay to protect a given type of data. A staggering 97 percent of those surveyed expressed concern that “businesses and the government might misuse their data”. This distrust creates a huge problem for lots of companies, and therefore an effort to create trust through transparency is underway. The next step after you reveal your intentions and gain their trust is creating tangible worth from that data.

Oddly enough, research suggests when you offer to pay people for their data it actually backfires and creates even more mistrust. So the value has to come from targeted deals or enriched user experience. This is where the companies have to be creative and get to exercise discretion in how they frame and deliver value.

An interesting headwind that’s driving better data collection practice is the global strengthening in data privacy and protection policy. As recent as late 2014, Germany ordered Google to stop violating its Federal Telemedia Act and Federal Data Protection Act by creating detailed user profiles based on data content collected without user consent. So as companies design their platforms that collect and utilize their customer’s data, an enlightened and trustworthy approach isn’t just beneficial on the short side, its also is necessary to remain globally relevant over the next decade.

Big data will continue to experience a legislative overhaul that has already begun, and that’s great for consumers. It takes transparency, giving the user clear information and explicit control over what they share. Consumers realize the inherent benefits that big data can offer, but aren’t willing to trust anyone with it; it’s up to the various companies to present their plan in an honest way that maximizes user value.

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