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The Rising Value of Personal Data

When we think of who has the power and potential to change the tech landscape, four or five companies come to mind. They are so prominent that I don’t need to list them, and they have built their empires on the back of data.

These companies are juggernauts in online advertising, search, music, online shopping, mobility and social media. Many of us interact with their products every day, either as a force of habit or a necessity to communicate with friends and family. Data is the fuel that powers their influence, and any company looking to reach their level of supremacy will need to tap into or create their own data streams.

The Network Effect is an apt summation of how these companies have risen to the top through free-of-charge services. By establishing themselves early in the data revolution, they gathered enough data to power their continued expansion. And continuous expansion, in turn, provides even more data.

This cycle of exponential data growth will continue in the coming years, as the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous driving and lower costs for storage and compute cycles will increase the available data by magnitudes. This data will inform machine learning, neural networks and computer vision.

However, we may be coming to the end of the “Wild West days” of data collection. Due to increased scrutiny of those who hold all this data, it won’t be as easy to collect information with the methods that have been used in the past.

Case in point: Facebook and its recent mishandling of user data with Cambridge Analytica. Unlike most newsworthy instances of data abuse, this didn’t involve a data breach. Instead, it was an underestimation of the value of user data exposed to a third-party Facebook app. Because Facebook was given guardianship over this user data, it is under fire for inadequately vetting third-party access.

As personal data becomes more and more valuable, control of this data will be key to regulating businesses. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the European Union has started the process of safeguarding personal data privacy with strict penalties for companies that do not comply. When the GDPR goes into effect in May 2018, it will have a sweeping effect on data-collection and data-protection practices for businesses around the globe.

As communicators building the bonds of trust between clients and their customers, we must keep the value of customer data in mind. When planning campaigns, we must consider whether personal data will be gathered and whether it must be gathered. We must consider the risks associated with the level of access we are requesting. We must consider what are we asking potential customers to give up, whether consumers have a clear option to opt out, and whether our clients have considered the impact of collecting personal data.

If these questions aren’t coming up, the consequences will.

Here are additional articles and resources for further information on this topic:

Marketing is an exercise in empathy. To create a message that rings true, it helps to feel what your audience feels and think what they think. Ultimately, these are major steps toward earning their trust.

That has never been an easy task, but current tech trends have made it more of a challenge. While it’s easier to reach audiences, it’s increasingly difficult to connect with them. From emails to text messages to social networks to dating apps, our interactions with other human beings are often routed through machines. And as a middle man, technology can both enable and isolate us from human interaction.

Those feelings of isolation may grow in the coming years, as powerful forms of automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning become commonplace. The next phase of technological innovation is destined to replace many forms of human input, opportunity and interaction. For marketers that represent the companies at the forefront of this technological transformation, earning the audience’s trust will be more important – and more difficult -- than ever.

For more insights on how to shape your communications within the changing technology landscape, watch for part three of our series. If you’d like to speak to someone about Airfoil can help you create trust with your audience, connect with us here.