New Privacy Laws Imply Data Scientist by Day, Lawyer by Night!

Friday August 15th, 2014

Australia’s newest privacy legislation came into force in March this year. If you have not reviewed it then, you are missing a key component of the evolving digital economy that is impacting everyone. Whether you are a consumer (i.e. Individual as we all are), Marketer, Business Intelligence Manager, Chief Data Officer, Head of BICC or Data Scientist the new privacy laws have implications.

Consequences of ignoring privacy issues can cause serious problems for  brands and their value such as the case of a big name US retailer, or electronics companies blurring the lines of collection on devices such as  SmartTV’s.

As care takers of enterprise data, the BI professionals have greater responsibility for protecting private data and keeping it correct. Ignoring the quality of data can cost the businesses as in this case study from the state of Oregon.

The Association for Data-driven Marketing & Advertising (ADMA) providesa  rich source of information on privacy and related topics for marketers. Spotlight on Privacy Series succinctly describes the recent changes and mentions that privacy violations can cost the business up to $1.7 million.

Most changes to the recent changes in privacy laws described in the ADMA document are self-explanatory. I describe below my observations related to some aspects of the privacy laws as noted in the ADMA document as well as from a recent briefing session by Australian Information Industry Association that I attended. There are challenges for Big Data and Discovery Analytics that rely on correlation across multitude of data sources to infer and derive new insights.

Consumers have responsibility for their own privacy. Consumers have for a long time settled for a trade-off by listening / viewing ads in exchange for radio talk shows and primetime TV. Back then it did not matter because of the one-way broadcast media that did not have intelligence about the individual audience. Consumers now need to realise that  using some free services over the interactive broadband such as Facebook and smartphone apps can result in their  privacy being at stake!

Much of the debate during the AIIA briefing on privacy has been on the need for marketers to be transparent and have respect for the consumers. It was said that many of the complaints from consumers have less to do with privacy than they do with the need for tact on the part of Marketing. The CEO of Hostworks mentioned that fair practice and common sense are the tipping point for ensuring privacy is not breached. The Privacy Commissioner for New South Wales said that in the past the customer would walk away from a brand that breached their privacy, but in the digital age millennials now  just feed misinformation to the organisation if they feel it may  intrude upon their privacy.

Integrity of personal information deals with rules about quality, security, access and correction which squarely fall in the domain of responsibility of the data management practitioners. The requirement for organisations to correct personal information has serious implications according to Will Berryman. In referring to a related development, the right to be forgotten that is being put into practice in the European Union (EU) and other countries, Berryman mentioned, “Those who have [access to the data] can change history and those who don’t will have history written for them”!

The definition of Personal Information provides some interesting twists: Whether the information or opinion is true or not; whether the information or opinion is recorded in a material form or not. Even more interesting is on anonymous information which leads to murky waters: “if you collect anonymous information that is likely to be combined with personal information (whether or not there is an intention to do so) you will need to treat that information as personal information from the beginning”.

The new rule on unsolicited personal information says, “If you receive personal information that you did not request, then you should destroy or delete it”. This is a difficult one for the data scientists who use intuition to derive conclusions from factual and inferred data which may not have been directly received from the individual. For example, it is possible for a telecom service provider to derive the location of a customer without explicitly receiving it from the customer, based on the location of mobile tower that transmits the voice calls / SMS messages.

Data scientists use such location data to create a profile of customers for marketing or disaster notification in the case of emergency.

There are many such rules and circular arguments that often lead to inconclusive decisions on whether an action breaches privacy or not and creates challenges for Big data analytics. One of the lawyers who attended the AIIA briefing commented, “In 5 years, the discussion and debate will not be about privacy; it will be about liability for inaccuracy in the inference from analytics”. It would appear that the data scientists have a new role of lawyer just added to their skills portfolio to potentially defend their own actions, inadvertently created from analytics.

Whether you are a data scientist or lawyer or BI practitioner, I welcome your thoughts and comments on this important topic of privacy.

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Sundara Raman is a Senior Communications Industry Consultant at Teradata. He has 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry that spans fixed line, mobile, broadband and Pay TV sectors. He specialises in Business Value Consulting, business intelligence, Big Data and Customer Experience Management solutions for communication service providers. Connect with Sundara on Linkedin.

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Sundara Raman

Senior Communications Industry Consultant at Teradata
Sundara Raman is a Senior Communications Industry Consultant at Teradata. He has 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry that spans fixed line, mobile, broadband and Pay TV sectors. At Teradata, Sundara specialises in Business Value Consulting, business intelligence, Big Data and Customer Experience Management solutions for communication service providers. He frequently writes on a wide range of topics as whitepapers and in the Teradata blog. Prior to joining Teradata, he has worked for Etisalat, Telecom New Zealand, Optus Vision, Cable & Wireless Optus, Logica Consulting, 724 Solutions, Motorola Networks and Motorola Connected Home. Sundara has been responsible for product management, solution marketing, pre-sales for new generation networks and services as well as IT data management strategy, business intelligence, analytics and architecture development. Sundara has lived and worked in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Middle East. Sundara has MBA degree from Massey University, New Zealand
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About Sundara Raman

Sundara Raman is a Senior Communications Industry Consultant at Teradata. He has 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry that spans fixed line, mobile, broadband and Pay TV sectors. At Teradata, Sundara specialises in Business Value Consulting, business intelligence, Big Data and Customer Experience Management solutions for communication service providers. He frequently writes on a wide range of topics as whitepapers and in the Teradata blog. Prior to joining Teradata, he has worked for Etisalat, Telecom New Zealand, Optus Vision, Cable & Wireless Optus, Logica Consulting, 724 Solutions, Motorola Networks and Motorola Connected Home. Sundara has been responsible for product management, solution marketing, pre-sales for new generation networks and services as well as IT data management strategy, business intelligence, analytics and architecture development. Sundara has lived and worked in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Middle East. Sundara has MBA degree from Massey University, New Zealand

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