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August 4, 2020

Calls for ‘Data Responsibility’ Grow

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A consumer backlash against misuse of personal data and the growing number of corporate data breaches are fueling calls for companies to institute “data responsibility” frameworks that comply with evolving regulations, incorporate transparency and leverage emerging AI and blockchain technologies to increase consumer control of personal data.

“Unless businesses bring new rigor to their data privacy practices, they risk losing consumer trust and access to consumer data that is increasingly driving their business strategy,” concludes a report released by business consultant KPMG. The study found that a majority of consumers are “deeply suspicious” of how companies collect and sell personal data, with 92 percent of those surveyed saying companies need to establish clear “data responsibility” guidelines.

A majority of respondents (56 percent) said companies must move swiftly this year to install mechanisms that give consumers greater control over how their data is collected and used. That result supports a growing movement toward allowing consumers as well as businesses to control and sell their data to the highest bidder.

Fully 97 percent of those surveyed by KPMG said data privacy is a priority, while 87 percent deem it a human right.

“With consumers indicating that they see data privacy as a human right, and new legislation expected in the years ahead, it is critical that companies begin to mature privacy programs and policies,” said KPMG analyst Orson Lucas. “Consumer demands for the ethical use of data and increased control over their own data must be a core consideration in developing data privacy policies and practices.”

The other side of the coin is a continuing consumer behavior that exposes data to security threats. Risky behavior includes using the same password for multiple accounts or logging on to public Wi-Fi networks. Hence, the data privacy report notes that companies must establish and embed clear data protection controls.

Then there are technology upgrades that could leverage data discovery and protection tools, ranging from blockchain implementations to machine learning. “These technologies can help organizations better track the source of their data, assure its accuracy, make it easily discoverable, protect it and build greater external visibility into the data being collected,” the report concludes.

Consumer pressure for companies to act on data privacy is building: the KMPG survey found that nine of ten respondents believe companies and governments have a responsibility to protect consumer data. They also said the California Consumer Privacy Act should be adopted as a national standard.

Such measures would give consumers the right to delete personal data as well as visibility into how their data is being used.

Those concerns have prompted a flood of proposed congressional legislation. Among them is the “Mind Your Own Business” Act, which proposed fines for corporate violators up to 4 percent of annual revenues and criminal penalties of up to 20 years for executives caught lying to authorities about misuse of personal data.

KPMG said it obtained about 1,000 responses to its data privacy survey between May 19-21, 2020. The sample was balanced to reflect race, age, gender and region.

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