The days of businesses being fast and loose with customer data are well and truly over. It’s not just new privacy regulations such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that have triggered that change. Customers themselves are demanding it.
And it’s not only about keeping personal information private and secure. Customers also expect organizations to be upfront and honest about how their personal data is used. An SAP Hybris study found that 80 percent of consumers say they won’t use a brand again if it uses their data without their consent.
Furthermore, consumers are punishing companies that breach their trust. Millions of Facebook users have deleted their accounts following the social media giant’s admission that Cambridge Analytica gained unauthorized access to data from up to 87 million Facebook accounts. In fact, 14 percent of UK Facebook users, 12 percent of Australian users, and 10 percent of US users have deleted their accounts, according to research by Pureprofile.
Those numbers are startling for a service that dominates its market and has become so important in the lives of consumers.
On the other hand, technologies such as fitness watches and Google Maps show that customers are happy to share very personal information in the right circumstance, and if they receive enough value in return. In fact, 83 percent of consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience, according to an Accenture study.
The Privacy Crackdown
Meanwhile, governments and regulators continue to crack down on how organizations acquire customer data and protect privacy.
The California Consumer Privacy Act, for example, may have a similar global impact to the GDPR. Australia has introduced its recent Notifiable Data Breaches scheme, which will be followed by Consumer Data Right laws. The latter will impose new data privacy and sharing obligations on financial institutions—and eventually energy and telecommunications companies too—giving consumers the right to access their personal data more easily.
For businesses that trade in Europe, complying with the GDPR may be tougher than they may have thought, following a recent ruling by France’s data protection authority, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL). The CNIL recently issued a warning to a French ad tech company that had applied the widely used GDPR Transparency and Consent Framework created by IAB Europe, the region’s online advertising industry association.
The CNIL’s warning appears to imply that using an all-encompassing agreement to gain customer consent on behalf of third-party companies may not necessarily be GDPR‑compliant. More specifically, IAB’s framework may lack the transparency required by the privacy law.
Building Transparency and Trust
What does this all mean for businesses? And, in particular, what does it mean those who understand the business imperative to share data with other organizations so they can gain new insights?
At Data Republic, we help organizations share data every day and, in our experience, most consumers don’t have a problem with it—as long as they’re asked permission first, they understand the value they gain from their data being used, and they’re satisfied that their personal information will be kept private.
Furthermore, being open and honest about the use of data can actually help businesses earn customers’ trust. According to a Salesforce study, 91 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to trust a company with their personal information if it’s “transparent about how my information is used.” 
Becoming a Data Custodian
Organizations affected by the data privacy crackdown obviously need to comply with the new rules. And GDPR, for example, provides a good framework for communicating with customers and protecting their data. But it’s only a starting point.
Gaining and retaining the trust of today’s consumers is not about compliance. It requires adopting new, transparent ways of acquiring, sharing, and using customer data—and that starts with changing the attitude to customer information inside the business. While customer data is a valuable resource, business leaders need to realize they are, first and foremost, custodians of that data for their customers.
Being ethical in how an organization treats people and personal data is the only way it can create a trusted, mutually beneficial relationship with its customers.
As Emma Grey, Chief Data Officer of ANZ bank, has said on bluenotes: “There’s no morality in just complying with the law to protect our own interests. We want to set the bar higher, and we are doing this because it’s the right thing for our customers and not because we are driven purely by compliance. In that transparency we’ll gain more customer trust and from that they’ll give us more information so they’ll get even better products and services. It’s a really compounding thing.”
Getting to Know Customers
All good relationships start with getting to know the other person’s likes and dislikes. It’s no different for a business and its customers.
While most consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience, the Accenture study identifies a clear line between ‘cool’ and ‘creepy’ personalized experiences. Of the consumers who reported a brand experience that was too invasive, 64 percent said it was because the brand had information about them that they didn’t share knowingly or directly.
That line between cool and creepy—or what customers allow an organization to do their data—may change as they become more trusting of the business. And, again, that comes through transparency.
In particular, it means gaining customers’ consent anytime the company acquires or uses their data—and clearly explaining exactly how it plans to use their information and why. The latter, incidentally, is an ideal opportunity to offer an incentive for customers to give their consent—such as how and why the customer experience will improve.
The Importance of Data Governance
These new ways of dealing with customers and their data may require making significant changes across the business, such as creating new data policies and a culture that genuinely puts the customer first in decision-making.
As we’ve discussed previously, a good data governance framework can help by formalizing a customer-first ethic and ensuring that data policies are universally adhered to.
However, relying solely on humans to apply data governance policies is problematic and building a bespoke system to apply the framework is time-consuming and expensive. This is why data-governance technology platforms such as Data Republic’s Senate are becoming popular among leading enterprises.
Together with its companion Senate Matching service, Senate provides a flexible but tightly governed and secure environment for sharing, matching, and analyzing data, while ensuring customers’ personal information is always protected and private.
By adopting Senate and Senate Matching, your organization can gain or retain your customers’ trust while generating new insights—enabling you to innovate and offer your customers better experiences, products and services.
 The 2017 SAP Hybris Global Consumer Insights Report, SAP Hybris, 2017,
 ‘#DeleteFacebook Insights’, Pureprofile, June 2018, https://business.pureprofile.com/infographic-deletefacebook-gains-traction/.
 Pulse Check 2018, Accenture Interactive, https://www.accenture.com/t20180503T034117Z__w__/nl-en/_acnmedia/PDF-77/Accenture-Pulse-Survey.pdf
 ‘Is The IAB’s Consent Framework In Trouble?’, AdExchanger, November 2018, https://adexchanger.com/ad-exchange-news/is-the-iabs-consent-framework-in-trouble/.
 Trends in Customer Trust, Salesforce Research, 2018, https://www.salesforce.com/form/conf/trust-research/.