Thought Leaders in Privacy and Data Safety in the Digital Era 1

By Alexi Schwartzkopff

At the 2016 “Privacy and Data Security in the Age of Big Data and the Internet of Things” convention, the former Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, Julie Brill, spoke on the accelerating integration of technology into everyday life and the challenges in maintaining privacy and data security with the increasing prevalence of data-collecting technologies.

“There are 25 billion networked devices in the world today and [Cisco] predicts that there will be 50 billion by 2020. As we add devices to our homes, classrooms, and clothes, much more sensitive data will be collected. These developments pose difficult challenges for privacy, security, and fairness in our society. To help consumers navigate and benefit from this complex, uncertain and exciting world, the Internet of Things and big data analytics need to meet consumers’ expectations and earn their trust.”

Technology is becoming an increasingly integral and intrusive aspect of every-day life through the “Internet-of-Things”. The increased awareness surrounding privacy and safety in data collection has provided an opportunity for the market research industry to lead the dialogue regarding ethical data collection practices. Brill closed her speech with a call to action recognizing that a society-wide effort will have to be launched to address the topic of protecting consumers’ data and a transparency in data collection practices. The Market Research Industry could position traditional data-collection and consumer research practices as being the more ethical, appropriate and trusted route. This image couk could be leveraged to increase consumer awareness and understanding of the function of market research.

Aside from gaining consumers trust by establishing a position on ethical data collection practices, this could also serve to inspire the millennial professionals to join the movement. According to the article “The Future of Market Research- RW Connect,” millennial professionals are “more interested in content than career. Helping other people is the most important in a job.”

There has been what the Harvard Business Review termed “Groundswell,” in the 2008 article, “Welcome to the Groundswell.” This phenomenon has been defined as: “a social trend in which people connect with and draw strength from each other, rather than depending on institutions like corporations”

The groundswell phenomenon has proved heavily influential in consumer-psychology and has resulted in a significant increase in the emphasis of corporate accountability. Consumers will not be deceived into buying products and services; they are suspicious of corporations and their data collection objectives. Market Research firms, by recognizing the modern consumer’s skeptical mindset, could position market research practices as inviting consumers to be part of a co-creation process to assist corporations in providing better products and services. Market Research firms could serve to be the mediating bridge, inspiring consumers to feel that corporations are more concerned with aspiring to become better. This would allow for the development of a more trusting relationship with market research firms. Millennial professionals would appreciate this function and be “on-board” for a mission that will benefit the consumers and champion data protection.

Are you an ESOMAR member? Go to MyESOMAR and read more from Alexi in Research World March/April 2018 where she looks at tackling the challenge of integrating new technology in traditional market research.

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By Alexi Schwartzkopff, SIS International