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Tag Archives: big data

Customer Analytics: Data Breaches and Consumer Trust

In this (possibly) final blog of this series I will be looking at how customers are becoming increasingly concerned at companies’ inability to keep their data safe, and how high publicity data breaches are eroding public confidence.

I previously wrote how it was possible to know where someone stood on issues of internet security just by checking their birth date. Those born after 1980, the so called Generation Y, or Millennials, are generally more comfortable sharing information online.   But things are gradually changing. In a 2014 survey by eMarketer it was found that Generation Y and Z were also becoming significantly more concerned about how well companies protected their personal data.

This concern can have a major impact on a company’s profits, as a recent report by the Ponemon Institute’s 2015 Cost of Data Breach Study (in conjunction with IBM) showed:-

Lost business has, potentially, the most severe financial consequences for an organization. The cost increased from a total average cost of $1.33 million last year to $1.57 million in 2015. This cost component includes the abnormal turnover of customers, increased customer acquisition activities, reputation losses and diminished goodwill. The growing awareness of identity theft and consumers’ concerns about the security of their personal data following a breach has contributed to the increase in lost business

By studying many data breaches across many industries, Ponemon have developed an approach whereby they can attach cost per record lost in order to estimate the cost of data breaches. What they have found is that, not only are data breaches becoming more common, but they are also becoming more costly.

The average cost paid for each lost or stolen record containing sensitive and confidential information increased 6 percent, jumping from $145 in 2014 to $154 in 2015.

2015 was perhaps the worst year so far for data breaches. NetworkWorld’s Top-10 data breaches of 2015 reported that many firms became the victim of very public data breaches including

  • Children’s toy companies (vTech)
  • Phone companies (T-Mobile, TalkTalk)
  • Healthcare firms (Premera, Anthem)
  • Dating agencies (Ashley Madison)
  • Government departments (IRS)
  • Security consultancies (Hacking Team)

+ Many more.

The trend does not look good, with the number of breaches predicted to increase in both size and cost for the foreseeable future.

Consumers are now realising that many companies are not vigilant enough in protecting their data, but just as bad, that customer data is being used in ways that are inappropriate and may adversely affect the consumer.

In a poll conducted by leading consultancy Radius Global 78% of internet users said they only purchased from companies they trusted.

The message is clear. If companies are to use customer’s data to provide a better service then they must do everything in their power to ensure the security of their systems and the responsible use of customer data, or run the risk of facing big fines and a catastrophic loss of consumer trust.

Big data and advanced analytics are forcing governments to bring in new regulations to ensure that companies use customer data responsibly, but it’s in every companies interest to ensure that the bond of trust is not broken.

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years as a BI and Analytics consultant, and more recently as ROC Product Manager for Subex Ltd. He has designed and deployed solutions for global companies in many sectors including Insurance, utilities and telecommunications. Mark holds a BSc Hons in Computer Science from Manchester University (UK).

Customer Analytics: Securing our Future

In the previous blog in this series I looked at how the use of persona, and creating customer journey maps for those persona, can give new insights on how to engage customers. By collecting customer data and tracking user interactions across all touchpoints, it’s possible to not only create an revealing profile of a customer’s interests and behaviour, but also better understand if the products and marketing are addressing customer’s wants and needs.

Technology is now rapidly opening up new sources of customer data including everything from health and well-being apps to our children’s activity online. Soon our heating systems, cars, refrigerators and every other connected appliance that’s about to hit the shelves will be churning out a stream of data back to the marketing departments of big corporations. The effective use of this big data undoubtedly has great potential to improve our lives, but there is also an increased risk that the individual’s privacy could be compromised, or the data could also be used to discriminate against an individual unfairly. In a recent case in the UK vulnerable customers were advised to buy energy on tariffs that were far higher than others available.   The same is true of insurance and medical care, and many cases exist where it’s been found that corporations are exploiting data to prey on the vulnerable. Add to this the substantial risks of identity theft and fraud as a consequence of data breaches, and consumers could be forgiven for feeling anxious about how well their data is being protected, and how it’s being used.

In an effort to stop corporations from exploiting big data negatively and better protect consumers the European Union has raised the bar on data protection by drafting the the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This new set of rules will apply not only to countries within the EU, but also to companies operating outside the EU, if they have networks or trade data with partners within the EU. Enforcement is expected to start in the spring of 2018.

The European commission’s website states that:

The objective of this new set of rules is to give citizens back control over of their personal data, and to simplify the regulatory environment for business.

Furthermore, as reported by consultancy group itgovernance,

The Regulation will enforce tough penalties – proposed fines up to 4% of annual global revenue or €20million, whichever is greater

For a large multinational the fines could get very substantial and significantly impact on share prices.

The GDPR sets out 8 Data Protection Principles that must be followed. The ICO, UK’s independent Information Commission, has provided clarification of how these principles need to be applied. For example, Principle 1 refers to Processing personal data fairly and lawfully. As described on their website,

In practice means that you must:

  • have legitimate grounds for collecting and using the personal data;
  • not use the data in ways that have unjustified adverse effects on the individuals concerned;
  • be transparent about how you intend to use the data, and give individuals appropriate privacy notices when collecting their personal data;
  • handle people’s personal data only in ways they would reasonably expect; and
  • make sure you do not do anything unlawful with the data

Perhaps one of the key new areas is in the use of big data and analytics for customer profiling. This is covered under Principle 6 of the GDPR under the somewhat obtuse description of ‘automated decision making’. ComputerWeekly have produced a number of documents and guides to help businesses to understand how the GDPR will affect them. In one of their latest blogs they explain

The regulation introduces a number of restrictions on profiling, including the right for an individual not to be subject to a decision which significantly affects the individual and which is based on automated profiling. In many cases, profiling will only be permitted where the explicit consent of the individual has been obtained. 

The implications for targeted marketing are unclear, but potentially significant, as it makes companies accountable for ensuring that customers

  1. Are made fully aware of exactly how their data will be used
  2. Explicitly agree to the way in which the data will be used
  3. Do not suffer any negative consequences from the use of their data.

As ComputerWeekly reports

These restrictions are likely to have a considerable impact on businesses engaging in, for example, big data analytics, as well as more general business activities, such as credit scoring and employee monitoring

In an article by the International Association of Privacy Professionals , they add that data subjects (customers)

…may also request to know the purposes of processing, the period of time for which data will be stored, the identity of any recipients of the data, the logic of automatic data processing, and the consequences of any profiling.

Corporations are now in real danger of drifting into a situation in which they are in breach of the new regulations, face substantial fines and seriously damage customer relations.

In the final blog of this series I will be looking at how customers are becoming increasingly concerned at the inability of corporations to keep their data safe, and how high publicity data breaches are eroding public confidence.

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years as a BI and Analytics consultant, and more recently as ROC Product Manager for Subex Ltd. He has designed and deployed solutions for global companies in many sectors including Insurance, utilities and telecommunications. Mark holds a BSc Hons in Computer Science from Manchester University (UK).

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