In the wake of high profile data breaches at companies including Equifax, Uber and TalkTalk, consumer trust in how companies manage personal data is at an all-time low. According to a recent survey conducted by security company RSA, 41% of consumers admitted to intentionally providing false information when signing up for products and services online in order to protect their personal data.
In addition, more than half of respondents said they would avoid handing personal data to a company known to have been selling or misusing data without consent. This has led to a rise of fake data in organisations, from consumers deliberately submitting incorrect information which is difficult or impossible to verify.
Clearly, this presents a problem for those companies that rely on customer data and that also handle it securely and responsibly. Ultimately, the only way that companies can rebuild confidence among consumers and combat this rise is to invest in robust data handling processes that ensure the security and integrity of customer data.
Why fake data is an insidious problem
Fake data is a tricky problem to solve once it is recognised. Issues may not even be identified until data is retrospectively analysed and results or insights are found to be skewed or not supported by concrete evidence. Discovering inaccuracies will put the entire data set into question, as it may be impossible to tell what information is correct and what has been falsified.
Fake data can also have a knock-on effect as users unknowingly use this information to make decisions when dealing with clients, colleagues and others outside the organisation.
Rectifying or ‘reverse engineering’ this data may not be straightforward. It can create significant risk, be tedious and require a significant time investment, providing an opportunity for the competition to jump ahead because company resources are diverted to cleansing and restoring data.
Addressing weaknesses with intelligence technology
The journey towards becoming the type of organisation that stands up to scrutiny begins at the departmental level. Employees must have a clear understanding of how data is acquired, transported and handled, both within the internal environment and with external businesses. However, human error can have great repercussions and even the most informed employees are not infallible.
This is where technology can be intelligently used to correct for this shortfall. In particular, automation confers consistency to how data is protected, monitored and reported. If processes remain manual, there are a lot of operational costs and the information handling is subject to a lot of potential mistakes.
Integration will play a part
To support any system aimed at improving how information is classified and handled within an organisation, a platform should be designed to enforce controls through integration with core business systems, and be scalable and agile enough to accelerate information flow across the business.
>See also: Data illiteracy concerns dominate Europe
An open, modular system, which is designed around information governance, is easy to build on, integrate and extend for faster time to value, yielding the best results. Applying processes and governance through such a platform will ensure compliance with regulations, without disrupting seamless and effective workflow.
The role of GDPR
To an extent, upcoming changes to legislation, such as GDPR will improve and regulate the way personal information is handled. The aim of the regulation is to empower consumers and ultimately increase trust through greater transparency around how personal data is acquired, handled, transported and encrypted.
In order to be fully compliant in time for the deadline of May 2018 businesses should have reviewed their internal processes thoroughly, ensuring that these are underpinned by a robust content management and information governance strategy.
Some organisations are further along the GDPR process maturity model and are already examining their longer term strategies to ensure that compliance is sustainable beyond the deadline.
However, legislation like GDPR may not be enough to address and repair the loss of confidence that continues to plague businesses. Going above and beyond what is required to ensure that consumer data will be handled in a way that is repeatable and auditable will pay dividends when it comes to gaining consumer trust.
>See also: Fighting fake news through technology
Businesses must learn to deal with the data mountain
The amount of data being produced by companies is showing no sign of slowing down. In 2017, IDC predicted that the “digital universe” (the data created and copied every year) will reach 163 zettabytes in 2025.
Much of this ‘mountain’ will be data held by companies about their customers. In order to effectively manage this growing avalanche of information, businesses must handle their data in way that is provable, auditable and compliant with legislation.
This means addressing data weaknesses through the use of technology, as well as implementing a platform that allows companies to classify and handle data in a seamless and secure way. By doing so, they can regain customer trust and fight the rise of fake data.
Sourced by George Parapadakis, director of Business Strategy, Alfresco