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Businesses must be more responsible with customer data, says Accenture

Organisations must be more transparent and respect privacy to keep consumer trust

Businesses must be more responsible with customer data, says Accenture
Organisations risk losing customer's trust, and permission to use their data, if they do not handle customer data properly.

Businesses need to be more responsible in their usage and protection of their customer's personal data, according to a new report from Accenture.

Organisations must properly protect consumer data and build trust among customers if they are to continue to leverage that data for growth, the report said.

The survey of 600 business professionals across eight industry groups and other secondary research showed that while personal data can be invaluable for growing business opportunities, organisations face growing challenges in how they use that data and growing pressure to respect customer privacy.

Ninety percent of respondents said digital stewardship is the most important principle in terms of improving their business reputation and being responsible managers of personal data, and 74% said that their businesses are taking action on this principle.

The report, "Guarding and Growing Personal Data Value," acknowledges the benefits of using personal data to support innovation in customer service, product development and market development. However, it also identifies the growing challenges that businesses face when using personal data, as a result of changing sentiments among stakeholders such as customers, regulatory bodies and watchdogs.

"Customer data is a digital ‘crown jewel' for any business but an organisation's ability to collect, analyse and monetize that asset in the future is under threat due to shifting perceptions, preferences, regulations and attacks," said Ryan LaSalle, managing director, Accenture Security. "Above all, stewardship and effective safeguarding of personal data is paramount to establishing digital trust. The implications of failing to do so extend into a business's operating model -meaning businesses must be organised and have the capabilities to protect the data that is entrusted to them."

The report identifies several trends affecting the outlook of businesses using personal data, these trends include a crisis of trust in data security among consumers, who will not do business with companies they do not trust; customers taking action on their privacy concerns which can impact on the amount and quality of data they will share with businesses; and customers recognising the commercial value of their data and demanding a ‘data dividend' - nearly 60% of respondents from products and manufacturing companies reported their customers are actively monetizing their own data, for instance, by selling it to data intermediaries.

The report also highlighted that new technologies and startups are helping people go ‘off grid' to avoid sharing their data; that government regulation is changing the rules of data collection; and that there are more efforts from watchdogs such as Fair Data (UK) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (US) to scrutinize the way businesses manage personal data.

"Rather than fight these trends, businesses should pursue proactive strategies that will help them adapt to the changes ahead," said Matthew Robinson, managing director, Accenture Institute for High Performance. "This includes investing in the right talent and technologies to bolster their security capabilities and provide greater data protection, defining an operational model centered on risk management goals to better predict, detect, respond and recover from security threats, and taking action on the principles we've identified that can promote greater digital trust."

Accenture has outlined five principles for organisations to follow to build digital trust and ensure that users continue to be willing to share data.

The principles include digital stewardship, ensuring that management of personal data is consistent with the expectations of those providing it; digital transparency, demonstrating openness in how businesses use personal data; digital empowerment, giving customers greater control over their data; digital equity, clarifying and potentially increasing the benefits customers receive in exchange for sharing their data; and digital inclusion, using personal data to multiply positive societal outcomes.

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