Join the WSJ's data transparency weekend!

Your data is the single biggest business for many existing and emerging companies across the world.

The web browsing you do is tracked thro' your IP and the cookies that get dropped in your PC or tablet leaves trails of our behaviour which many companies trade for money! The mobile phone that you use creates data repository on your location making it valuable information for  retailers, travel companies and leading brand marketers to name a few. Companies need to co-opt customers, collaborate and working with them closely if they want to build trust and meaningful conversations with them.



The need to be transparent about your data and its usage - is the single most important priority for companies. WSJ is conducting an event next week on data transparency and they are inviting developers to build free web tools to promote data transaparency and control. Think it is a great initiative and co-opting developers, customers by making them aware of their rights is great first step. 

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Personal data is the new oil!

The world economic forum and many futurists believe personal data is the new asset class that will emerge as a competitive advantage for many marketers. It is important that marketers start using this data  intelligently, judiciously and in a manner that benefits and engages the customer. Else, this is one area that can have a severe backlash from customers just like the occupy the wall street episode.

Personal data may be the new oil but refining and using it sparingly with relevance is becoming a very important issue for marketers to focus and address.

Who is the owner of our personal data?

However,  there is an emerging debate around the ownership of personal data as digital outposts & sites are gathering data about customers like never before. Google recently released a new privacy policy last week which  redefines how this data will be used across all Google properties that we as their customers have an account. The new Google privacy policy reads " We may use the name you provide for your Google Profile across all of the services we offer that require a Google Account.....We also use this information to offer you tailored content – like giving you more relevant search results and ads...."

Clearly, the challenge that is becoming a key part of the debate is who is the owner of this personal data  and what of it can be used and by whom.

My View

I personally believe customers should be given control of their data. Customers must give permission about which of this data can be used basis their interests and lifestyle needs to companies, advertisers and marketers. And thereby brands can deliver value to these customers.

Imagine personal data lockers being available which customers can own for a fee(much like the demat of company shares that have happened over years across different countries & markets). There will be several central agencies that hold this data and provide access to customers  - with a front-end which provides flexibility to give permissions to customers to release this data for commercial purposes. If the past few decades were the era of credit bureaus, the coming decades are the era of data bureaus.

Imagine a customer wanting to buy a car ticks the check-box on the need or expresses the need to be a part of a community of interest.Many marketers and companies then vie to build a dialog and a conversation with the customer - not spam her with emails, irrelevant ads and messages on mobiles. All the searches that customer does then become available for relevant ads to be shown to her online. Then, the sales & marketing teams of different marketers & products unlock a new engagement platform to woo this customer.

The customer experience is therefore refined, relevant and customized like never before using the data that is in control in the hands of the customer. 

Imagine the power of this data. Imagine its efficiency. Imagine its effectivness. If personal data has to remain as the new oil, the control & flexibility must be in the hands of the customer.

Empowering customers in India - Indian privacy law set to change landscape

India is gearing up for enhanced privacy laws that protects customers. This can be a landmark legislation that can have lasting impact on consumers, data protection, data sharing and use of personal data & information. 

India has a not been privacy friendly state. Data sharing and exchange is done freely and hence it is not suprising to find personal information being freely available for a few cents. The proposed act or legislation seems to be all encompassing and can have a lasting impact. Take a look at some of the recommendations:

  1. Currently, in India there is no legislation for protecting the privacy of individuals for all information that may be available with private entities. The legislation proposes to bring this to force.
  2. Choice and consent of the indvidual before his/her personal information is collected
  3. Information should be used only for the purpose it was collected
  4. The individual should have access to his/her information at any time. He/she must be enabled to update or correct the information
  5. Data controller would be transparent in his working as regards to the collection of personal data
  6. Data controller is primarily responsible for its safety and use

The framework proposes:

  • All forms of identifiable data be protected against under the right to privacy.
  • It goes on to define what is personal data -..."to be able to identify a person, information need not necessarily be objective identification such as a person's name, but can be subjective information such as the opinion that a person is a "reliable" borrower or that a person is "expected to die of a terminal disease". It is also important to bring all personal information within this definition regardless ofthe format in which the information is stored."
  • It also extensively takes into consideration Indian context - Aadhar program that uses biometric information
  • Explicit consent or even approval from a regulatory authority may be required to be obtained to collect sensitive personal data.
  • Processing of data in an automated manner must be avoided when it affects the vital interests of the data subject.
  • The data once collected must be deleted after achieving the purpose for which it was
  • Privacy impact assessments to be conducted by independent authorities in the form of
    transparent audits, for the protection of personal data.
  • Appropriate measures to protect the data of Indian citizens that are processed outside the country.

I believe this is going to have far reaching implications on how private entities hold data and process data. Also, information available on the web and information shared in social media will have to undergo scrutiny, as this personal data today is being used for commercial interests by many of the entities like google, facebook etc.

I have attached the approach note paper Download Aproach_paper.

I would love to hear comments, feedback and implications on this proposed law. And how marketing in India needs to adapt to this new environment.