Who’s watching the watchers?

Our world is being driven by data. But, who’s taking the wheel? What does it mean for the individual? For the business? We reveal all.

Using technology has become fixed into our daily routines as much as the pre-commute breakfast has. But, what many people don’t realise – or choose to ignore – is that when we’re scrolling through the morning’s headlines on our smartphones or walking to the office with them in our pockets, our data is being captured and stored. From our browsing habits to our location, the Googles and the Apples of our world are constantly keeping tabs on us. So, who’s keeping tabs on them?

Never one to miss a story, the media has played a leading role in sparking huge social and political conversations about personal data. In particular, how marketers are using it and the consequences it has for consumers from who it’s collected. Let’s not forget the Cambridge Analytica scandal – when the firm was hounded for using over seventy-one million Facebook users’ private information to develop political propaganda campaigns in the UK and the US.

Thanks to the media’s exposure, data management is on everyone’s radars. Consumers are beginning to realise their right to refuse personal data requests, businesses are becoming more transparent about how they’re using it and the government is adapting its framework to protect both parties.

But, data doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.

When shared effectively within and between organisations, data has the potential to create £66 billion of new business and innovation opportunities; something that the government is keen to explore. To do so, it’s created a seven-step digital strategy that sets out how it’ll develop a world-leading digital economy, which keeps data within the lines. These steps include:

1. Connectivity – building a world-class digital infrastructure for businesses to thrive
2. Skills and inclusion – giving everyone access to the digital skills they need to boost productivity
3. Digital sectors – making the UK the best place to start and grow a digital business
4. Wider economy – creating a digital infrastructure for every British business to increase global competitiveness
5. Cyberspace – making the UK the safest place in the world to live and work online
6. Digital government – maintaining the UK government as a world leader in serving its citizens online
7. Data economy – unlocking the power of data in the UK economy and improving public confidence in its use

Putting a strategy in place that has a direct impact on businesses’ digital transformations means the government can control and influence the UK’s data management, and can ensure the security of its citizens (to a certain extent). But, is this enough to keep the Tech Giants in check and to prevent another scandal from rocking customers’ trust in brands?

Thankfully, government officials have more than one strategy up their sleeves.

Digital Economy Act 2017

The Digital Economy Act 2017 includes a range of measures to support the UK’s ambition to become the world’s digital leader. It aims to provide better connectivity and access to broadband across the country, build an improved infrastructure fit for the digital future, enable public services using digital technologies and protect citizens from digital exploitation.

The General Data Protection Regulation

We couldn’t write about the UK’s data economy without mentioning the four words, which have been unavoidable in recent weeks – General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The regulation was enforced to protect all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches in our increasingly data-driven world. As the most important change in data privacy in twenty years, and with a fine of up to four percent of a business’ annual global turnover or €20 million (whichever’s greater), businesses can’t afford to give data a backseat.

G-Cloud and Digital Marketplace

The UK’s digital anatomy has evolved rapidly, in what seems like a short time-frame. So, to bring the public sector’s IT infrastructure up to speed, the government launched the Digital Marketplace. The publicly accessible portal helps organisations find the right people and the right technology for digital projects. For example, the G-Cloud is a platform from which organisations can find cloud hosting, software and support. So far, 56% of total G-Cloud sales have been awarded to SMEs, proving that small businesses are leading the digital revolution and the new and improved way of storing data.

These digital strategies are the glue, holding the UK’s digital and business economies together. If one was to thrive, the hope is, they’d ensure the other thrived as a result. But, with the media constantly looking for holes in political policies, the government is under increased pressure to prove these strategies work and that they’re secure. One incorrect move could result in front-page news and that week’s gossip. So, if another data scandal arose, it would be the media bringing it to the public’s attention and the media prompting government officials to rein in the culprit. After all, the media is the ‘middle-man’ that connects us all.

All in all…

Thanks to evolving digital capabilities, social media’s increasing influence and our incessant use of smart technology, the data we share with the world has never been richer or more revealing. Because of this, everyone – whether an individual, a business or government – has a role to use data responsibly. This means protecting the data they own, being clear on how they’re using it and ensuring those users have the appropriate digital skills. With data paving the way to the future, nobody can afford to be left behind and nobody can afford to make errors – especially when all eyes are watching.

Want to answer the big data-ownership question? Watch Part 1 of The Great Data Debate and hear what the experts have to say.