This week, #dataprivacy has been all over my social feeds – and yes, I’m aware of the irony of using social media whilst reading about an issue that the likes of Facebook and Twitter are notorious for. With this week’s FaceApp drama and The Great Hack being released on Netflix next Friday, 24th July (read on for details), I expect that interest in the topic will only grow in the coming weeks.

Whilst most people are viewing this issue as a personal concern – ‘how is my data being used and is what I’m getting in return worth it?’ – in this article I’m looking at how growing awareness of the value of personal data will affect organisations.


First, let’s look at why this important issue is suddenly front and centre for the general public.

This week, you may have noticed a lot of older-looking faces on Instagram, with people uploading photos of themselves to FaceApp and the app using AI to apply an ‘old’ filter (among other options). But amidst the fun/horror of seeing oneself wrinkled and white-haired, a data usage debate (sparked by concerns over how the images were uploaded and stored) got just as much airtime.

FaceApp aren’t alone in their lack of transparency about how they process user data. A recent study found that thousands of apps in the U.S. Google Play Store still bypass permissions to collect user data, with many more shocking discoveries revealed in this publication.

Another big talking point is the imminent Netflix documentary entitled ‘The Great Hack’. Whilst most of us have heard of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, this highly-anticipated show is renewing interest in the case. The first line of the documentary description reads:

Data has surpassed oil as the world’s most valuable asset.

The creators of The Great Hack also recently gave a popular Ted Talk on Facebook’s role in Brexit – with Cambridge Analytica leveraging Facebook ads, identifying and manipulating ‘persuadable’ people by illicitly harvesting their data.

Yet another story that broke this week highlighted the data of ‘nearly all adults’ in Bulgaria being stolen from the country’s tax agency, reigniting a long-running debate about how governments handle and invest in cybersecurity. The Bulgarian tax agency now faces a fine of up to €20m under GDPR, for failing to protect the data.

I could list several other instances of #dataprivacy currently in the news and in popular culture, but I think you get the gist. Consumers are waking up to the realities of the threat that data misuse or lack of security can pose, and that the issue can only grow if we don’t do something about it.

What #DataPrivacy means for businesses

Whilst the most sinister claims against FaceApp have been denied, their data usage and privacy has come under intense scrutiny this week. Could your organisation’s data practices withstand that level of inspection? They must be airtight.

With growing awareness, and often suspicion, about data security and exploitation, consumers are much less likely to sign up for a service they do not trust with their privacy.

On the plus side, 41% of consumers are more comfortable and confident that brands are handling their data correctly thanks to the introduction of the GDPR. However, is that confidence misplaced? In the same report, four fifths of companies admit to not being 100% GDPR compliant.

What organisations can do about it

Trust is a competitive advantage. How can you achieve it with your customers?


To start with, you must make sure you are compliant with relevant data regulations, like GDPR. Not doing so could have a severe impact on your business, as we saw with British Airways in September last year.

BA suffered a data breach of around 380,000 card payments. The announcement was followed by the fall of their parent company’s shares by 4% ; customer ‘impression score’ plummeting; and the ICO’s recent announcement of their intention to fine BA £183.39m.


…and not just in the small print of the T&Cs – I think most of us are guilty of accepting without reading every detail first. Tell your customers regularly why you need to collect certain data and how you will keep it safe. Make it fun, like this video example from the UK’s Channel 4.

Give users options

If you offer an online service or app, the sign up process is crucial to converting and retaining your customers, and needs to provide convenience and security.

Two-factor authentication, 2FA, is expected. Better yet, give users options for authentication – e.g. via their smart phone or Bank ID. The options you provide should reflect regional preferences and level of data sensitivity.

Customers are more likely to trust your business if they are in control of how they access your systems, and feel confident that hackers cannot impersonate them.

Invest in data privacy, like you would any other asset to your business, and your customers will thank you for it.