If data is the new oil, will GDPR clog the system?

Everyone knows that the technology industry is full of jargon. One of the latest phrases being ‘data is the new oil’. If this is the case, will the EU’s General Data Protection regulation be a blockage in the pipeline?

Why is data the new oil?

Thanks to the growing power of data and its dominance in the technology market, many experts have found ‘data is the new oil’ a useful phrase. Its aim is to highlight the comparison between oil and data’s ability to power our everyday lives. Much like oil fuels the world now, as it did in the Industrial Age, data is propelling digital transformation and Industry 4.0.

>See also: Data revolution: the gold rush of the 21st century

However, this association also misrepresents data’s true value and abilities. Data, unlike oil isn’t costly to produce and, most crucially, with data increasing at an exponential rate, it is growing faster than users ability to manage it. Indeed, IDC predicts that by 2025, global data will grow to be ten times that of today.

Data is a powerful driving force behind the dominant industry giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. It is at the core of each business’s decision-making process.

These tech giants use it to expand into new markets, enhance their offerings and improve customer experience. By using data to analyse trends and patterns, businesses keep ahead of competitors. In the face of digital transformation, it is clear that without data, these industry leaders wouldn’t be paving the way.

Data leaks

As our reliance on data grows, especially with the rising popularity of connected technologies such as the Internet of Things, it brings with it some problems. For example, like oil spills, “data spills” can often be concerning for members of the public.

>See also: The value of data driving business innovation and acceleration

With so much personal data under the control of organisations, the effects of hacking, leaking and data protection as a human right is becoming an increasingly popular topic for discussion.

With the rise of data, comes the stripping back of consumers privacy. Many people are uncomfortable at the thought of retailers or banks storing information relating to every little detail of their lives.

GDPR – a blockage in the pipeline?

A recent study found 56% of UK residents polled said they would welcome the right to object to their data being used for marketing and profiling. This is what the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sets out to address. But, GDPR could also become a major blockage in the pipeline.

Vast volumes of data are gathered via peoples mobiles phones, social media, online purchasing history, browsing preferences etc. All organisations processing any form of personal data from EU residents will be subject to these more stringent obligations under the GDPR.

The requirement for all companies and institutions to protect the personal data of EU residents begins on the 25th May 2017, making it harder for companies to share and utilise data. The good news is, the stronger rights now available for the data subjects.

>See also: The UK’s top 50 data leaders and influencers

Unlike the oil business, there will be a transparency element to data with the introduction of GDPR. This is a great opportunity for businesses to show their customers that they are ready and willing to engage with them regarding their data privacy.

Simply, it builds further levels of trust and stronger relationships, whilst giving compliant companies a competitive advantage. To make the most of the GDPR opportunity, companies can do three key things:

1. Make someone accountable: GDPR requires organisations of over 250 employees to appoint a Data Protection Officer. Your DPO can get a jump start on where your data is and what is happening with it.

2. Set up a customer consent program: Under GDPR, anyone collecting data must offer customers and users the ability to actively decide whether they want their data used.

>See also: Data leader on the impact and necessity of data analytics

3. Make your data secure: The security of customers’ data needs to be actively enforced and upgraded over the lifespan of the data; and the destinations of the data must be tracked.

Thanks to GDPR, businesses working with high volumes of data can ensure that they are more transparent for the public, allowing the public to engage more with what is being done to their data. Therefore, those dealing in data will put the rights of the subject ahead of the values and needs of the business.


Sourced by Matt Smith, CTO, Software AG


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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