Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash
The New York Times declared the 2010s as “The Decade Tech Lost Its Way.” And it’s easy to agree when you look back at the Cambridge Analytica scandal, tech companies who consistently got off easy after privacy violations and the rise of sweeping new regulations to protect personal data.
But that pattern doesn’t have to continue. The coming decade could be one of opportunity for tech companies, rather than a threat. Even in the face of recent scandals, there’s solid evidence that a new data revolution is officially underway.
To accomplish that, however, every single business—solopreneurs, small to midsize businesses, well-established enterprises—needs to pay attention to their data if they want to survive. To stay in business, companies need the granular ability to sort, restrict, share and access data, and they need it now.
Legislation has Established New Norms
Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, enacted in 2018, became the tip of the legislation iceberg. Right now, over 100 countries have current or drafted legislative measures in place. Data governance is becoming the new norm, and there are three critical pieces of insight that companies can take away from existing legislation.
- Companies will need to take responsibility for their own cybersecurity defenses. GDPR and similar rules hold companies responsible for data leaks whether or not they’re technically at fault.
- Companies will no longer be able to hold onto data for an indefinite amount of time. The right to erasure, or “the right to be forgotten,” acknowledges that people should be able to request that data concerning their personal information be erased.
- Companies need to clearly explain what they do with data that they keep.
While there are other aspects to data protection laws, the above three aspects are expected to have an outsized impact on the way that businesses operate.
Regulations Provide an Opportunity for Differentiation
With so many requirements to meet, some businesses understandably are taking a defensive posture. Instead, they should reframe the opportunity as a catalyst for change. Meeting the minimum requirements of data protection regulations—and perhaps even surpassing them—is an opportunity for companies to take themselves to the next level and to ward off a public backlash.
Greater opt-in requirements, time limitations on data, and the right to erasure are opportunities for companies to think about data more strategically. Who cares if companies can send their newsletter out to more people if nobody reads it? Why perform analytics on individuals that have no interest in actually buying a product or service? Instead, businesses should maintain leaner, more effective databases that can help them hone their bottom line.
The Importance of Granular Control
Even when companies do theoretically agree with new regulations, it still leaves the matter of how to go about making necessary changes. The good news is that there are plenty of tools that can help companies meet current requirements.
One of the essential tools for companies to employ as they restrict data access is a system that offers granular data control. Companies can make sure that employees are only accessing information on a “need to know” basis. A modern solution can also strip data of personal information so that it can still be used on a micro and macro level to understand customers.
The Uptick in Data Protection is Only Beginning
As more governments explore the topic of data control, smart companies will get prepared for the inevitable changes ahead. The most successful businesses will be the ones that view data protection as chance at freedom, not a set of handcuffs.
Tech companies were once lauded for shepherding openness, and appreciated as bringing out the best in society. The 2010s reversed the public’s perception. Now it’s time for tech companies to reclaim their benevolent image, and they should be grateful for governments around the world for giving them a perfect chance to do so.