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A decade of data scandals and privacy breaches have made consumers suspicious of the idea that businesses care about their privacy or about protecting their personal data. But it wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, no-one worried about their personal data. No-one worried about whether that data was being kept private, or how it was being collected, stored or used.

This is because, until very recently, data was much simpler. For centuries, there was only the local knowledge held by communities. “Privacy” meant closing your front door. If you were part of the wealthy class, there were deeds and contracts, but these were usually hidden away under lock and key.

Starting a couple of centuries ago, mass personal data started emerging. It was collected by the Government: where and when you were born, when and who you married, what taxes you paid, whether you joined the army or went to prison. This data was a historical innovation. But it was still short and simple, and it was stored in a manila folder among a sea of filing cabinets.

But consumer data? Well, for most of history, that didn’t really exist. People purchased things from their neighbours, their local community, and the small shops scattered around their suburb. What “data” there was – your name, your social standing, your favourite type of cheese or beer – was stored in the mind and memories of small business owners. There was no industry of packaging this data up and selling it to third parties. There was no social media. You didn’t spend hours a day on the internet, leaving a trail of cookies and clicks behind you.

This began to change through the 20th-century. Businesses grew exponentially, and their clerical and data-processing skills improved. But with the arrival of the computer – and the emergence of a funky new technology called the internet – came the dawning of a new, non-analogue era. The landscape of data and privacy was turned upside-down.

Sharing data, as understood by us in the 21st century, has evolved to a feeling of mistrust. Year after year, a string of data breaches emerge. Sony, Target, eBay, Equifax, Facebook & Cambridge Analytica – all these scandals remain at the forefront of the public mind. Consumer trust is at an all time low, and they no longer trust companies with the security of their data.

How wonderful would it be if data was used, as in the days of old, to benefit the consumer as well as the business? Think about how great it is when you drop by your local coffee shop and the owner remembers your name and that you like a skinny flat white. Like 19th century consumers – and the small store owner that remembered their preference of the sweetest mead – most of us understand that the more companies know about them, the better offers they can tailor to them.

So, Now What?

Tapping into this consumer understanding is the simplest way to forge ahead and begin to rebuild broken relationships. As business owners, it is on us to rebuild the trust. We have to measure up to the standards set by new legislation, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, and Consumer Data Right (CDR) in Australia. We need to carefully consider how to protect our customers and use their data in the ways that they have consented to. We need to win back their belief that consumers and businesses can use their data ethically.

The best way to rebuilt modern consumer trust is to adopt SOOW’s approach to data and privacy. Our data engine encourages a trust-based relationship by giving consumers full control, so they feel comfortable sharing their data.

Only once we understand how we got to where we, can we envision how to move forward. And only once we chart that way forward can consumers and businesses come together again, in a spirit of sharing and trust, to the benefit of both.

To learn about the new legislation coming to Australia and how it will affect your business, download our free whitepaper on Understanding Consumer Data Right.

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