Why Big Trust is Big Data’s missing DNA

Mark Little, Principal Analyst, Consumer

In the rush to monetize customer data, companies risk diminishing the trust people have in services and brands. Sustaining and growing people’s trust in services is not just about “doing the right thing,” but also makes commercial sense. Telcos and OTT players have worked to establish a satisfactory level of trust with their customers, but as Big Data creates new opportunities for monetizing customer data, even a little more aggression in its exploitation risks driving mistrust among users.

Customers who are aware of this exploitation will become more concerned with their privacy, and with the transparency and control of their data. To exploit customer data more comprehensively, businesses must develop a much greater level of trust with their customers. Ovum calls this approach “Big Trust,” and outlines it in detail in the report Personal Data and the Big Trust Opportunity. Big Trust creates new opportunities for telcos to strengthen their core services and develop new trust-based services with the potential to generate incremental revenues.

Big Trust brings new opportunities

Big Trust strategies are designed to build “trust equity” with customers as a basis for making core services stickier, for selling new services, and for brokering personal data to commerce under a new set of trust principles.

There are opportunities to market new consumer services such as single sign-on; applications for blocking online tracking; personal data vaults (PDVs), where users can repatriate their personal data from utilities companies, loyalty card schemes, healthcare providers, and government agencies; and self-analytics software for users to analyze and discover value in their own data.

It even becomes possible to build personal data exchanges (PDEs) that act as host and agent for the PDVs that give users control over their own data, making it useful, fun, and increasingly valuable to industry and to consumers themselves.

Big Trust is more than just a defense of privacy

Big Trust is based on principles such as putting people before analytics, privacy by default, user control, and data transparency. Embracing these principles would allow service providers to take communications beyond the core services of voice and messaging, and into the consented communication of super-rich customer data and future intentions.

Emphasizing the interests of customers and committing to being on their side rather than on the side of the advertiser or seller dramatically changes the rules of the game in markets reliant on the “fracking” of personal data. Customers will begin asking companies reliant on personal data whose side they are on, and for most service providers the answer will increasingly need to involve elements of Big Trust. The alternative is ever bigger Big Data, based on the idea that more granular targeting and positioning alone can replace real customer relationships.

As the application of Big Data analytics to customer data grows in sophistication, and businesses increase their knowledge of users’ willingness to pay, there is a risk of the creeping introduction of first-degree price discrimination and personalized offers that are not entirely beneficial to the customer. Charging the highest price a buyer is willing to pay enables a seller to extract the “consumer surplus” from them, negatively impacting their wealth or personal economy. Big Trust gives businesses the opportunity to commit to being on the side of their users, and to defend their individual personal economies against the superior firepower of Big Data analytics and marketing automation.

Big Trust can enable “personalized personalization”

Consumers already have the ability to block tracking and repatriate their data into PDVs, and in the future they might also expect to be able to use a “personalization reset” button that depersonalizes and “detargets” any offer presented by a website. This would reveal the default offer for new or unknown customers, thereby providing some protection for the consumers’ personal economies and a check for over-zealous marketers.

Under a Big Trust strategy we might also see personalized services whose data source is verified as being the customer’s own PDV. This means that, instead of advertising based on what a business estimates their intentions to be, customers will see advertising based on their own verified data. This is information that they have consented to share with companies of their choice, and is based on what they have stated their intentions actually are.

Targeted ads that the customer can recognize as being based on their own self-curated, super-rich personal data are likely to have considerably higher click-through rates.

Big Trust can help protect Big Data

Any business case for monetizing subscriber data must include the alternative of making money from a Big Trust position. For example, the UK’s Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) is planning to make “pseudonymized” health records available to insurance companies. These health records are stripped of all identifying data, and individuals can opt out of the database. However, insurance companies could compare the records with other data sets to identify the individuals involved, and then reduce risk and personalize offers (or even premiums) in order to extract the consumer surplus.

Even if such targeting becomes illegal, suspicion of insurance companies that use health records in any way could encourage customers to attempt to block data collection and investigate what data companies actually have. If they feel discriminated against, they may choose to switch insurers. If brands wish to increase their use of personal data they will need to counter customer suspicions by leveraging Big Trust strategies. Big Trust is, in many ways, Big Data’s missing DNA, and injecting this DNA into the collection and use of personal data could help protect the incumbent Big Data industry from the inevitable rise of user-control.

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10 Mar 2014, 11:25 a.m.

Cirrologix's blog also comes up with the cloud computing, salesforce.com and work.com updates, http://blog.cirrologix.com