‍16 / 07 / 2019

Data Statistics

Vital Statistics - Changing Attitudes on Data Protection


Everyone now knows that not only do we all leave a digital trail behind us, but also that many a business has been built on data collection in recent years. The question then is: with new legislation in place, not to mention a clear cultural shift underway, can businesses make use of data while retaining the trust of consumers?

Analysts Gartner certainly seem to think so: among the firms’ ‘Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2019’ was privacy. “Consumers have a growing awareness of the value of their personal information, and they are increasingly concerned with how it’s being used by public and private entities. Enterprises that don’t pay attention are at risk of consumer backlash,” the report stated.

This has not fallen from the sky, of course; Gartner is measuring consumer sentiment — and it is not alone. Indeed, a June 2019 EU Eurobarometer survey on data protection demonstrated that privacy is not just an issue in boardrooms and think tanks.

The survey of 27,000 Europeans found that 73% have heard of at least one of their six digital privacy rights. The highest levels of awareness among citizens are recorded for the right to access their own data (65%), the right to correct the data if they are wrong (61%), the right to object to receiving direct marketing (59%) and the right to have their own data deleted (57%).

On the other hand, there is a long way to go on transparency.

New business model

Some businesses are taking privacy seriously, though; moving beyond GDPR compliance toward offering privacy as a service.

“We’re only starting to see the emergence of privacy-enhanced technology but if you look at the start-ups you see a lot of people working on this,” said Aoife Sexton, chief privacy officer at Trūata, a business that works to keep its customers on the right side of the law when it comes to privacy.

“That’s one side of it. On the other side of it, we’re starting to see some [large] companies differentiating with privacy. You only need to look at Tim Cook and Apple to see that.”

Sexton’s professional background is as a technology lawyer. “A number of years ago I got interested in privacy,” she said. The data landgrab is now over, she says, but businesses need to demonstrate a commitment to privacy, not just make declarations “It’s one thing to say it, but how do you demonstrate it?”

Trūata’s goal is to make data anonymous, thus compliant, but allow it to be used. “If we can anonymise data so that it’s no longer personal but I can see trends and certain things that I can learn, why wouldn’t I do that?”

This means that not only should data collection not be an overreach, it’s also an opportunity to ensure that the data is actually useful.

“Historically it was a land grab. Certainly, the last 10 years it was ‘data is the new oil’ [and] ‘let’s collect as much as we can, we really don’t know what for, but we’ll collect it and work out what to do with it later’. “GDPR has changed that. People are looking more at data accuracy than just collecting vast amounts of data and also demonstrating a specific legal basis to do it and describing that to consumers.”

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Aoife Sexton

Aoife Sexton, Chief Privacy Officer
Aoife joined the Trūata team from the law firm Tech Law Services, where she was a Principal for six years advising technology clients within the areas of Commercial, Data Protection, IP and Technology Law. Aoife is a graduate of University College Dublin (BCL) and the College of Europe, Bruges, Belgium. She is a Certified Data Protection Practitioner (PC.dp) as well as International Association of Privacy Professionals CIPP/E certified. She is an approved IAPP trainer for the CIPP/E course and conducts regular training courses in Ireland.