Time to fight back against ‘wild west’ data collection practices

Posted on June 30, 2020 by Alistair Hardaker

Or Lenchner

In 2017 it was claimed that the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data. As the connected world continues to grow, data has become less comparable to oil and more of a general necessity, like water, something that is invaluable to our existence and accessible to almost all.

In fact, by 2025, more than 150 zettabytes, as in 150 trillion gigabytes of data, will need analysis globally. To be successful, businesses need to collect and analyse this ocean of data to better understand the world they operate in.

The data collection industry will be the driving force behind this. But unfortunately, since the domain is relatively new, it’s still a bit like the Wild West and lack of regulation is fuelling potentially unsecure practices. As the CEO of a leading online data collection platform, I see it as prime time to instill high standards and push forwards in this highly competitive market.

The need for data collection

Online data collection is incredibly important for businesses operating in the modern age. Customers are predominantly found online, even more so in recent months due to the global lockdown, and data collection brings every company of every size closer to their customers. With online data collection businesses can listen to customer reviews, test products, offers and strategic plans and even go as far as identifying future market trends. For example, customers’ reviews can provide eye-opening insights in real-time and if they are collected at scale, which can sharpen a business’ strategic direction – saving time and money.

Up until relatively recently, businesses typically used market research to mitigate risk. Now, almost all companies use the online data sphere to anticipate consumers’ desires and to address customer needs quickly and precisely.

Getting a clear picture through data

It’s clear to see why data collection is so important to businesses, but it’s crucial that the data is accurate, otherwise it is worthless. The accuracy and the security in which the data collection process is handled is key to the success of the entire operation. Businesses need to make sure they are relying on accurate up-to-the minute data collected in a secure and compliant manner without damaging the online ecosystem. To achieve this, data collection providers should be offering full transparency so customers can be sure they are getting the most from their investment.

Taking the tools out of the wrong hands

Data collection tools are incredibly powerful, but it’s important they aren’t misused. If data collection providers aren’t carrying out stringent compliance checks to determine who is using these tools, they can fall into the hands of cyber criminals. Many of these criminal activities have spiked in popularity in recent months with Covid-19 suddenly shifting businesses online practically overnight.

The tools can also be misused in less malicious, but equally harmful, ways and can damage the wider online ecosystem. For example, taking down websites by overloading them or harming the integrity of the data displayed.

How clear regulations are key to making the domain sustainable

Data collection is a complex matter, with scope for dire consequences if managed improperly. Organisations treating data collection recklessly spells trouble not just for customers and the online ecosystem, but for the industry itself. It is crucial that businesses ensure the data collection channels they are using hold themselves to the highest standard of ethics, but it is equally important that the industry embraces responsibility for keeping itself in check.

If the data collection industry continues without firm regulation, this is likely to create wide-reaching damage, especially now, when demand is surging in the response to the pandemic. Regulations that promote responsible, secure practices across the industry are necessary, and will form an indispensable part of future-proofing the data collection domain. To thrive, the industry simply must enforce clear guidelines.

This type of strong action is key to maintaining the transparency and integrity of the online ecosystem and will ultimately be for the common good. Not only will it protect customers and secure the online ecosystem, but it will stop providers indulging in activity that may have wide reaching, self-harming consequences for the data collection industry in the long run.

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