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How the younger generation is shaping data protection

Louise Read 5 minute read Data protection

“Social [Media] is dead” – according to one keynote speaker at the DMA’s recent Data Protection Update, sponsored by Experian. At this event there were a range of business leaders and experts speaking about data management strategies but this statement really grabbed my attention.  As an avid Instagrammer, Twitter follower and Facebook fanatic this was news to me. Whilst I don’t personally agree with the speaker’s comments, I do believe that the way we use social media has changed.

I’m part of the Millennial generation, who grew up as social media was evolving. At the age of 17, I remember setting up my Facebook profile when only four other friends were using it, when you still needed a registered academic email to sign in. My friends and I put everything online with very little consideration for the consequences of knowingly or unknowingly sharing so much personal information. It’s really only in the last couple of years that people have begun to think about the data trail they leave and the value that their personal data has for companies.  

However, consumer attitudes are changing fast. If you talk to teenagers now, they know the risk of sharing certain information online, and what’s more they recognise the data-value exchange - and expect something in return. Schools now hold lessons on online safety and educate teens about the right levels of information to share - and this caution is ingrained in them. This is the future post Millennial’s the iGeneration, also known as Generation Z. This generation is usually classified as born in 1994 or later, but people who have grown up with a smartphone in their hand. According to the Harvard Business Review “like Millennials, iGens share constant connectedness, but this generation of digital natives is also fiercely independent about their digital decision-making” [i], an increasingly wary and educated generation that businesses need to be prepared for. Particularly if they want to continue to have access to vital information that improves their ability to understand build, serve and retain customers.

Experian and DataIQ recently conducted research into changing consumer attitudes. This research uncovered three key consumer attitudes towards the way that businesses use their data; “Trusting” “Rational” and “Cautious”. It’s not surprising that the cautious group outweighed the others by nearly half (49%). Whilst the survey took a representation of the UK population, I actually think this cautious group might be even bigger. The research didn’t include ‘Under 18’s, who would classify as part of Generation Z, whom are likely even savvier.  If you compared our research against the DMA’s last year, you can see the growth of consumer attitudes. The DMA’s research also split consumer attitudes into 3 groups the ‘cautious’ group, or ‘fundamentalist’ in this case, only represented 24% [ii].

The “Cautious” group’s growth has been fuelled by numerous high-profile data hacks and other incidents of poor customer data management..

Businesses now need to respond to these changing attitudes or risk losing a key strategic asset – customer data. Experian’s annual Global Data Management Research shows, that year on year, organisations are putting increased importance and value on their data - 84% of respondents said data was integral part of forming business strategy and that 79% of businesses believed customer data would drive sales decisions. The way organisations perceive the value of data is maturing rapidly, however the research showed that companies were still lagging behind in terms of their data management maturity, with the majority ranking themselves as reactive (43%). Businesses need to  invest in more proactive and optimised data management processes so that people feel data is being used safely and appropriately; and continue to provide this crucial business intelligence.

Back to the social media point – it’s unlikely that social is on its way out. The user community increases daily and according to Forbes this number is growing at a rate of 9% a year [iii]. However, with changing consumer attitudes businesses need to safeguard their approach to data management. Changing data regulations are helping to accelerate this process by putting individual data rights firmly back in the hands of the data owners and removing any sense of a business ownership. Whilst regulation might be the driving force for investment, businesses need to consider this shift in attitude by establishing the necessary people, processes and technology and building privacy by design. As technology continues to develop at pace, the information that we already provide online is only going to become far more granular (enhanced location data, facial recognition etc…). The amount of information available is staggering, intimidating and actually terrifying to many individuals. Businesses need to fill consumers with confidence that they are a respected brand that takes the management of  their customers’ personal information seriously; not one that gives them a sense of dread at how much businesses might know about them.

And, this all starts with having an effective data management strategy in place to manage and protect your customers’ information. Experian hosts a number of roundtables to help you build an effective data management strategy. The roundtable events will show you how to take control of your data assets, get them “fit for purpose” and how you can get ready for the imminent changes in data regulation .

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[i]Harvard Business Review – How to market to the igeneration, May 15 (accessed 28_11_16)