Predictions for data usage and regulation in 2020

How will data regulation affect the tech landscape within the next year, and how may company data usage evolve?

Empowerment among the workforce

One aspect of a company’s data usage that’s being predicted in 2020 is a rise in data democratisation.

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It’s believed that in collaboration with automated solutions, companies will be increasingly efficient without employees feeling like they are being replaced.

SnapLogic CTO, Craig Stewart, said: “As technology is further democratised and data-savvy users acquire, access, and use a multitude of apps and systems themselves, often without IT assistance, we’re going to see continued growth of workers adopting self-service, low-code, AI-powered technology solutions to boost productivity, augment capability, and accelerate day-to-day work results.”

IT will be able to manage itself

It may be large now, but the amount of data companies have in their systems is expected to increase, with IDC predicting the world’s data to total at 175 zettabytes over the course of five years.

“Yet the market will adjust,” said Jasmit Sagoo, senior director and head of technology UK&I at Veritas. “Over the next few years, organisations will exploit machine learning and greater automation to tackle the data deluge.

“With its number-crunching capabilities, machine learning is the perfect solution for data management. We’ll soon see it accurately predicting outages and, with time, it will be able to automate the resolution of capacity challenges. It could do this, for example, by automatically purchasing cloud storage or re-allocating volumes when it detects a workload nearing capacity.

“At the same time, with recent advances in technology we should also expect to see data becoming more intelligent, self-managing and self-protecting. We’ll see a new kind of automation where data is hardwired with a type of digital DNA. This data DNA will not only identify the data but will also program it with instructions and policies.”

The need for data regulation will be more widespread

According to some experts, this surge in company data could mean that governance will need to be more spread out across businesses.

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Felix Gerdes, director of digital innovation services at Insight UK, said: “However technology is used, in 2020 the data it generates will be of primary importance to enterprises – not only for the insight they can gain, but also to ensure that data is being stored, used, shared and deleted in accordance with regulations such as GDPR.

“Yet growing use to technology will begin to create more data than many organisations’ current processes can cope with. As a result, there will be a growth in company-wide data governance strategies among businesses that are serious about taking advantage of and using the insights available from the data they gather.

“Since this will be a new area for many organisations, we will also see a boom in demand for data governance consultancy services – opening up new opportunities for experts.”

Global data standards will emerge

The EU GDPR, which came into effect in May 2018, has made European companies think about how they are protecting customer data properly. But what if a wider data standard could come into play across the world?

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“While standards such as GDPR have started to make a positive impact on helping companies prioritise data hygiene and protection, there is no single, global framework that tells businesses how they should store, manage, classify, protect and secure their data,” continued Sagoo.

“It’s easy to become accustomed to the status quo, but this divergence in data practices only slows down the flow of data between organisations and forces many to waste added time and resources on data cleansing and management.

“Data has become the lifeblood of many sectors — we can’t afford to let it clot. That’s why we’ll see the beginnings of a concerted movement across industries to bring in legally enforceable standards for data quality.

“Arguably synthetic data will commonly be used as a mechanism to share intelligence without compromising the source or the subject of the data.”

Repeat GDPR offenders will provide a challenge

Since the GDPR was introduced, some companies have been penalised for not following it and risking the safety of customer data.

But Jeremy Hendy, CEO of Skurio, believes that while fining wrong-doing firms once may be all well and good, those that offend more than once could prove more of an issue for regulators in 2020.

“In 2019 the regulators bared their teeth and showed that sky-high penalties were more than a hollow threat,” he said. “Precedents were set with the first wave of multi-million pound GDPR fines, reflecting the sheer amount of data that was compromised.

“In 2020 we’ll see the wider impact on consumer behaviour. GDPR is all about putting the safety of customers’ data front and centre; those companies that have been breached are likely to see frustrated customers voting with their feet and taking their business elsewhere.”

“In 2020, as we see the second wave of fines, regulators will also face the challenge of how to deal with ‘repeat offenders’.

“It’s reinforced the importance of early breach detection for compromised credentials. Companies can also get proactive about planned attacks, which can be identified through chatter on Dark Web forums by threat actors.”

Lawsuits will increase with demand for control of data

Although data regulation is attempting to crack down on misuse of customer data, it’s doubtful that this will put a stop to data breaches altogether.

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This, according to Ashvin Kamaraju, CTO for cloud protection and licensing activity at Thales, could mean an increase in legal action from customers as they become more wary of the possible risks to their data.

“As breaches hit the headlines every day, 2020 will be the year customers start to ask more questions and demand more control over where organisations are storing data and how they are protecting the data,” said Kamaraju.

“In 2020, companies will pay nearly $3 billion in fines and payouts from lawsuits, a 50% increase over 2019.

“As a result, data discovery, classification and remediation by protection sensitive data through automated workflows will become important and be an extremely important initiative for enterprises.”

Views towards data will become less favourable

Data has been referred to as a handy vessel for real-time customer behaviour analysis.

However, due to stricter regulation such as GDPR, companies need to be more careful about how they utilise this method.

“Until very recently, ‘data’ was generically viewed as a good thing for the modern business; grist to the mill of customer insight and business strategy,” said Richard Grove, director of Caution Your Blast.

“Accordingly, companies’ approach to gathering data was to cast the widest net possible, with a shotgun approach to analysis. New regulations like GDPR have shown this can’t continue.

“Data is no longer an unlimited source of useful insight. It’s expensive to handle, and if handled incorrectly, data can be a toxic burden for a company which opens it up to penalties like fines.

“There’ll be a wave of companies dumping data that serves no purpose. Unused data is just a cost, so the role of the data scientist will become more refined and central to the running of a successful business, as they’re entrusted to generate ever more useful insights from a shrinking amount of raw material.”

Metadata will trump data when providing insights

Other experts, however, reckon that a solution to this analytics dilemma could come to fruition in 2020: metadata.

Steve Wood, chief product officer at Boomi, said: “Overzealous data analyses have brought many companies face-to-face with privacy lawsuits from consumers and governments alike, which in turn has led to even stricter data governance laws.

“Understandably concerned about making similar mistakes, businesses will begin turning to metadata for insights in 2020, rather than analysing actual data.

“By harvesting data’s attributes — including its movement, volume, naming conventions and other properties — companies will give indications of concerns around accessing PII and other sensitive information.

“Metadata lends itself well to data privacy, and with the correct machine learning and artificial intelligence modelling, can still provide critical information to the C-suite such as lead generation changes, third-party data access, potential breaches and more.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.