NEWS17 March 2015

‘Give data back to the people', panel tells Impact 2015 audience

News Opinion UK

UK — Personal data should be wrested from the control of businesses and given back to consumers, according to a panellist speaking at today’s ( 17 March) Impact 2015 conference.


Speaking during a debate based on the notion that ‘Privacy is no longer a social norm’, Alan Mitchell, marketing columnists and strategy director of data agency Control-Shift, argued that the current model needed to change

“The entire market research industry is about gathering data and giving it to businesses,” he said. “Just imagine if it was about gathering data and giving it back to people – empowering them with their own data.”

The debate revolved around how attitudes to personal information and companies’ use of it have changed in recent years. Chad Wollen, Vodafone’s group head of commercial innovation and futures, largely agreed with Mitchell, insisting that there is a need for greater transparency and giving more control to consumers.

“Trust is the centre of this,” he said. “The old ways of interacting with people don’t work anymore. Brands have got to start creating leadership around this – the feeling is that we’re talking the talk but not walking the walk.”

But Dr. Guy Champniss, associate professor of marketing at Henley Business School, stressed the need for context: “The big thing for me is that we respond differently in different environments,” he said.

For instance, he said: “People feel more confident about giving their data to John Lewis than British Gas, which for organisations is a complicated reputational relationship to put in place.”

Mitchell said that the reputations of brands were being affected by the lack of choice consumers have in sharing their data: “Simplistically, there are two ways companies use personal data – one, to provide a service, and two, to sequester and monetise that data,” he said. But the industry standard means that consumers have no choice but to read a privacy notice, tick a box and sign away their data. “It’s completely toxic and is undermining trust. The whole issue of how companies are using data is becoming a brand issue.”

Meanwhile, Champniss argued that the more data companies held on their consumers did not translate to a clearer picture of their customer. 

“There’s an assumption that behaviours are not going to change as a result of the granularity of data,” he said. He argued that the more data organisation study and model, the less truthful they are likely to be.

“In certain categories, and when data is used in certain ways, they look to exercise their individuality and become more creative. In certain categories as soon as we know we’re being measure, we try to throw the data off.”


1 Comment

9 years ago

If I own my data then I can share privately with those businesses I trust allowing them to engage me more deeply than other ways. This is now a reality, not just a thought - see

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