Big data has been around for a while now transforming the way we live and do business. In recent years the exponential growth of available data coming from the billions of phones, sensors, payment systems and cameras has not only created more opportunities, it has also created greater risks.
For businesses data promises a better understanding of customers and their behaviour. Inspired by this potential companies are amassing whatever data they can on customers, while also tapping into the digital advertising world, a $9.3bn market in Australia alone, who collect the information left by consumers online.
While information sources continue to grow, one challenge still remains. How do you convert data to insights and ultimately create business value? Connecting data sets together is one strategy that businesses use to uncover richer insights. To share data safely, third parties and lawyers are often engaged and techniques like depersonalising data or redacting personally identifiable information are used. But these approaches can be slow, expensive and restrictive, while the anonymisation of data limits the ability to gain personalised insights.
These far from perfect data practices have been thrusted into public consciousness more recently as data scandals and breaches regularly hit the news. From the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal to the high profile data breaches of Yahoo and Marriott International, consumers are waking up to privacy and want to know how their data is being collected, stored and used.
In response to growing concerns privacy legislation has swept the globe aiming to protect the privacy of consumers, and forcing many companies to review their data governance practices or face hefty fines. In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) maximum fine is up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million (depending on which is greater) for any organisation that infringes its requirements.
While data risks have always been present, they seem to be intensifying. It is now plausible that a data breach could cripple a company. The US Equifax breach in 2017 which affected 147 million consumers sent Equifax’s stock plummeting at the time and saw the company hit with a $700 million fine. In Australia the most recent statistics relating to the Notifiable Data Breach scheme showed that breaches are continuing to grow with an almost 20% increase from the previous six months with health service providers and the finance sectors being the highest reporting sectors.
But it is not just the penalties or reputation loss resulting from data misuse that cost business, holding consumer data is now associated with significant costs. In the US, the State of California has estimated compliance with the recently enacted California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) could cost companies a total of $55 billion. While GDPR and CCPA might be first off the mark with introducing strict legislation creating a new cost for businesses, other states and countries are expected to soon follow suit.
Beneath advancing regulation is an ongoing discussion attempting to define privacy in today’s digital age. This conversation highlights an obvious tension that exists between a fundamental right to privacy and the data on which our whole economy is now based. In an interview with NPR, Daniel J. Weitzner, Founding Director of the MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative maintains that if we view privacy as secrecy it is easy to feel like our privacy is lost. For example, this notion of privacy says that if a third party holds your personal information then you have no privacy. He argues however that protecting privacy is not about secrecy, but rather transparency about how governments and businesses are using our information.
While technology may have been a contributing factor to today’s privacy challenges, it is also providing solutions that can support transparency and help raise the bar when it comes to how data should be respected and protected.
Privacy preserving solutions underpinned by encryption technology are changing data practices for the better. Cryptography advances like homomorphic encryption have moved out of academia and into the commercial marketplace. Technology companies like IXUP have integrated this encryption advance into analytics platforms to provide businesses with a privacy safe way of using their data. No longer does data need to be decrypted while analytics are performed enabling multiple data sets to be connected, without ever revealing the personal information of individuals within those data sets to another party.
Previously data collaboration was solely reliant on trust that a partner will do the right thing with your data. With data security no longer a deal breaker for collaboration even the fiercest rivals could work together, be that in the face of industry-wide disruption, evolving regulatory requirements, or simply to meet changing customer needs and expectations. There has never been a more pressing time for new data partnerships with the current challenges that face us with COVID-19. Data are essential to help us understand the spread, as well as the short term and long term impacts of what is a health, society and economic issue.
Privacy preserving data collaboration allows for progressive organisations to use their data to solve problems, innovate and provide services that improve experiences. It allows them to respond to challenges working with an ecosystem of partners, without jeopardising their most valuable assets.
While privacy preserving technology might have set out to solve today’s privacy problems it has opened the door to new possibilities for how data can be used. Now that encrypted analytics is finally here, the possibilities for secure data partnerships and value creation are endless.
Privacy Awareness Week
IXUP is a proud supporter of Privacy Awareness Week (PAW) 4-10 May 2020. PAW is an annual campaign led by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner that highlights the importance of protecting personal information. This year’s theme is ‘Reboot your privacy’ and focuses on the steps we can all take to protect privacy.
Join the conversation with the hashtags #PAW2020 and #RebootYourPrivacy and help raise privacy awareness. Visit the PAW 2020 website to find out more: oaic.gov.au/PAW
 Attorney General’s Office California Department of Justice, 2019