As Data Privacy Day approaches on January 28th, the spotlight intensifies on the urgent need for both individuals and businesses to take control of their data. This year's campaign highlights the crucial role of privacy in building consumer trust and the increasing importance of robust data protection practices in businesses.
The theme, 'take control of your data', underscores the significance of data privacy not just for customers, but also for businesses. The campaign seeks to underscore the impact of security threats related to data and encourages businesses to take control for better protection practices.
Amid growing concerns over data storage and usage, the UK government, in December 2023, proposed new legislation aimed at enhancing data security and reducing fraud. This includes improvements to data storage facilities, protecting against cyber-attacks and physical threats. The legislation proposes minimum security and resilience requirements, with a dedicated regulator ensuring compliance in the sector.
At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Artificial Intelligence (AI) was spotlighted as a major safety concern. EU Chief Ursula von der Leyen emphasised Europe's need to advance in AI but stressed that it must be used responsibly and regulated effectively. Such regulation is vital to uphold responsible usage and adhere to privacy laws, thus protecting consumers and their data.
Data Privacy Day isn't just about raising awareness; it's a platform for discussing the importance of privacy and why businesses must improve their data practices. As Sridhar Iyengar, Managing Director for Zoho Europe, points out, "Data Privacy Day is often focused around the consumer, but is equally important in the business world. According to a Zoho Digital Health Study, 36% of UK businesses surveyed say that data privacy plays a critical role in the success of their business."
However, a gap exists in compliance. Iyengar reveals, "Only 42% of respondents say they comply with all regulations and industry guidelines, so more education is needed on how businesses should operate to safeguard customer data and use it in the right way."
The ethical and commercial aspects of data usage often clash. Companies, including tech vendors and search engines, use customer data in various ways, sometimes ethically, sometimes commercially, leading to potential compromises in customer trust. Iyengar emphasises the need for transparency, "Businesses need to improve transparency around how they use data as a deliberate step to behave ethically, to establish trust and strengthen consumer relationships, not just as a legislative need."
With AI transforming industries, ethical considerations and responsible data practices become paramount. "Companies that use AI must prioritise ethical considerations and responsible data practices," Iyengar advises. He stresses the importance of adopting proper AI procedures, ensuring impartial algorithms, and complying with privacy regulations to balance the benefits of AI without neglecting privacy and transparency.
Iyengar highlights Zoho's approach: "Zoho was built with 'privacy by design'. We believe organisations shouldn't sell customer data. Customers, not the companies they deal with, are the owners of their data. Customer data should only be used to enhance customer service provided or solutions customers purchase and use. It is vital that businesses carefully consider overhauling their data policies and the communication around them to build and maintain better relationships with their customers."