GDPR and What It Means for Big Data

GDPR and What It Means for Big Data
Author

John Terra

Last updated April 26, 2018


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It’s already been established in countless articles and blog posts how Big Data is a valuable tool available for businesses of all sizes to increase not only their customer base but to also retain them and improve the quality of those relationships. Well, brace yourself because there’s a bend up ahead in the Big Data road, and forewarned is forearmed. This particular bend in the road is known as GDPR.

Understanding GDPR

The acronym GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation, which was a piece of legislation passed by the European Union in April of 2016. Businesses serving customers in the EU were given a two-year window to comply, and that deadline’s coming up on May 25, 2018. The purpose of this legislation is to give consumers better control of their personal data as it’s collected by businesses. It sets limitations on what companies can do with that data and how long they can keep it. Remember how people used to say that when you put something on the Internet, it’s there forever? At least in this regard, that axiom may be changing. Even though this is the European Union’s legislation that’s designed specifically to preserve the data privacy of its own citizens, companies outside of the EU must still comply with the GDPR if they want to do business with customers in the EU.

According to an article found at InvestorIntel, companies can collect just the minimum amount of data from customers needed to conduct business with the latter. Furthermore, businesses will be held accountable for the use and storage of that data.

Businesses must designate a Data Protection Officer (DPO, for short) whose function is to oversee details such as GDPR compliance and data security strategy. If there’s a breach, the DPO must report to affected individuals and the regulators within 72 hours of the incident. Penalties for non-compliance are tough. A business that violates GDPR laws will pay fines of up to four percent of annual global turnover, or $24.6 million (20 million Euros), whichever is greater.

If this entire matter seems a bit draconian, one must remember that data breaches are on the rise. Larger data breaches are happening with increasing regularity. Clearly, the GDPR is a response to this troubling trend, showing that data breaches are a serious matter and won’t be tolerated.

How GDPR Laws Will Affect Data Collection

Without a doubt, the biggest way GDPR legislation will affect data collection is that it will lead to an increased reliance on real-time analytics. Real-time analytics takes data that has just been collected and puts it to immediate use and analysis. With collected data getting an immediate turnaround, there is no need for keeping said data around for any great length of time, which is one of the issues that the GDPR seeks to address.

Fortunately, researchers have made huge strides in making real-time analytics faster and more effective as compared to post-dated analytics, so there’s hope that this particular change can be made with a minimum of fuss.

Social media, an avenue that many businesses use for the purpose of building customer loyalty and increasing engagement, will also be affected. This is hardly surprising, considering how much personal information ends up residing on social media accounts. Witness the recent news of Facebook releasing new privacy tools, and it becomes obvious that the rules of engagement are changing. Businesses wanting to do business with EU customers will have to be more careful about what they ask for and be more forthright with how long they are holding onto that data and what they will be doing with it.

Furthermore, all of that Big Data being collected will have to not only be stored securely but will need to be gathered by customers who want to remove it and switch it over to another vendor. Businesses of all sizes will need to come to terms with the idea that customers will gain greater control over their own personal data.

So the clock is ticking, and compliance is expected. Huge organizations have the necessary resources and bandwidth to help reduce the sting of GDPR compliance. But what about small-to-medium businesses? How do they prosper under these new regulations?

How to Thrive in the Age of GDPR

Considering how data privacy measures similar to GDPR legislation could happen in the United States if there was a sufficiently larger and more high-profile data breach, it appears prudent for all businesses to educate themselves now on how to comply with data protection rules. For some businesses, the task of compliance may best be handled by outsourcing the job to a third-party service provider to handle the details. It may cost more than making it an internal responsibility, but at least the work is in the hands of professionals who are experienced in these matters.

However, if you want a more cost-effective, in-house do-it-yourself solution, the answer could very well be to look at GDPR compliance as an opportunity, not as a burden. Data breach vulnerability is an increasing concern, and potential customers could be reluctant to give out information for fear of being compromised. Being GDPR-compliant may restore a measure of peace of mind, and make it easy to engage customers online again.

First of all, have a good idea of what is meant by “personal data”. In the context of the GDPR, personal data is any piece of data, offline or online, that can directly or indirectly identify a person. Typical examples of personal data include name, email address, IP address, location, contact information, and social media accounts and posts.

Second, sit down and decide exactly what kinds of customer data are absolutely necessary for the smooth operation of your business. Make sure each type of data is justifiable, and avoid asking for extraneous, unrelated information.

Finally, make sure any data collection you do is by opt-in consent, not passive default. This way, customers are the ones taking the initiative and volunteering the information, which decreases your business’ liability, provided of course that the terms of service are explicitly stated.

These measures may be inconvenient and/or painful at the start, but ultimately, any business who implements them will benefit in the long run. Concerns about data security aren’t going away; on the contrary, they’re growing among the public. Even if your company has no dealings whatsoever with EU citizens, it would be prudent to start handling data like the GDPR-compliant businesses are.

A Career in Analytics

If real-time analytics are going to play a larger role in digital marketing, there will be a greater demand for web analytics professionals. The GDPR adoption may signal an opportunity for the right person to step up and launch themselves into a rewarding career as a web analytics professional. The circumstances are right for you to make a move.

Simplilearn offers training and certification in advanced web analytics, with either a self-paced program or a corporate training solution. Through 15 hours of high-quality e-learning content and 20 hours of instructor-led online training, you can learn about the fundamentals of digital analytics and data analysis, behavior, conversion and onboarding, and of course, privacy and ethics, a very timely skill, considering the subject at hand! After you complete the 15 mini-projects and end-of-course practice project, you’ll earn your certification.

By getting certified in web analytics, you can increase your skill set and boost your value in this time where businesses increasingly find themselves having to walk a fine line between customer data privacy and effectively leveraging consumer information for better sales.

About the Author

John Terra lives in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been writing freelance since 1986. Besides his volume of work in the gaming industry, he has written articles for Inc.Magazine and Computer Shopper, as well as software reviews for ZDNet. More recently, he has done extensive work as a professional blogger. His hobbies include running, gaming, and consuming craft beers. His refrigerator is Wi-Fi compliant.


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