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Privacy and Data Ethics Will Give EU Companies Another Chance

Blog: Do you give your customers a right to see what data you have on them? Can they ask to correct this data or have it erased? And do you tell them that you don’t sell their data to third parties? Few European companies are clear about their data policies on their websites even though it would be so easy for them to do it.

At the beginning of the new data era, especially multinational companies use and abuse personal data, and consumers are increasingly concerned their privacy or rather lack of it. According to Eurobarometer on Data Protection 2015, seven out of 10 say they want a company to get their explicit consent, if they want to use their data. And just as many are concerned that their data is used for purposes other than what they have consented to. A wide range of other consumer surveys show the same trend; individuals want control over their data, but do not feel they have control. This digital mistrust is devastating for companies’ growth potential.

Most money in data which is not personal

There are many opportunities to reach growth through data. According to a report on the potential of Inter of Things from McKinsey June 2015, most money will be made in data that is not personally identifiable, such as weather, traffic and product data. And when it comes to personal data, companies need to be cautious.

The Facebook’s and Google’s are front runners in capitalizing on the personal data, but they also have a lot of the blame for massive consumer concern. Not least Facebook allowing many data-sucking apps, which keeps ‘forgetting’ to tell that they have access to all your photos or Facebook Messenger, which requires access to all your contacts, photos and location.

We are beginning to see a growing demand for secure services both from consumers and from businesses. For example,  European cloud services as German T-Systems and Danish Rush Files, are experiencing growth. The same with alternatives to Google Analytics as Siteimprove and Netminers. Privacy and data ethics are areas where European companies have a great opportunity to stand out. Instead of copying the Silicon Valley business model which could be called tracking-by-default, they will get much further with a model where they provide true transparency about what they do with data. Danish companies can help through the Danish Business Authority’s new tool where you can generate a clear privacy policy.

Data Ethical challenges

One thing is to live up to the law. Another thing is what customers will accept and find fair. A company could be totally lawful tracking a customers location and delivering related advertising on their smartphones. But perhaps the customers think it’s too pushy? So, in addition to complying with the law, it’s a good idea to establish a data ethical strategy which will map out all data ethical challenges.

Competing with global companies, who often live by different rules than the Danish (for example you don’t always need consent from the user in the United States if you want to sell their data to third parties), it’s a good idea never to take anything for granted. Show that you respect the law, and that you adhere to high ethical standards around the use of your clients’ data. While Facebook and copycats continues the broad data harvesting and increases the digital mistrust, we will se growing market for companies that put consumer clean in the center and give them power over their own data. We are already beginning to see products and services that are privacy-by-default or privacy-by-design.