California’s gold rush created a new industrial eco-system of winners and losers 154 years ago. Likewise, the data gold rush which we are living through right now has spawned huge opportunities. Many businesses have never previously considered themselves to be data businesses. But they have found themselves able to trade and make money from finding, extracting, blending and/or trading this increasingly valuable commodity.
Making sense of this new data economy and the opportunities it presents is not easy. Compared to previous commodity booms, data is hugely multi-faceted. It can be broken up and collated in many different ways, easily moved across borders and organisations, and traded without significant start-up costs.
This month, we launched the results of a major new study, “The Data Gold Rush - Growing and Protecting Your Position in the Data Eco System”. It combines analysis of research on consumers’ views about their data being exploited, the opinions of private and public sector organisations on the new opportunities which data brings for them, as well as analysis from lawyers located across our European offices on the prospects and challenges faced in respect of specific topics, including on-line behavioural advertising, children’s data, Big Data and the cloud, Open Data, mobile apps and data security.
The results reveal a range of challenges relevant to those extracting and exploiting data.
For instance, strong cultural differences run through the willingness to give up mobile and email addresses and location details, the age at which parents should control the online consents which their children give and on-line price discrimination.
German respondents, for example, reacted badly to the idea of disclosing their email address to websites as compared with their UK counterparts - at 18% against 56%. In the UK, 16 was the majority choice for the appropriate age for data to be collected direct from children without their parent’s consent, while in all the other countries 18 was by some way the preferred age.
As efforts among the advertising and Internet industries to agree Do Not Track (DNT) browser settings stumble, 82% of respondents gave a clear signal that they would like to see a technical solution to signify their consent to data sharing. But, interestingly, willingness to share different types of data varied significantly - only 19% were willing to share mobile and social network contacts, whilst 52% were willing to share TV, film or gaming preferences vindicating the W3C’s decision to permit a flexible approach to consent in its DNT specification. (The so-called “out-of-band” consent provisions which allow consents obtained by a website to over-ride a user’s DNT setting.)
Of course, the volatile international regulatory landscape for data businesses possess both a threat and an opportunity and is also closely examined in our paper. The threats include the proposed introduction of significant increases in fines in Europe (to the greater of 2% of worldwide turnover or €1million), across the board explicit consent obligations, new data portability obligations and the right to be forgotten.
Perhaps of more interest is how data businesses can turn an apparent threat into an opportunity, for instance increasing the value of their key asset by taking measures to demonstrate compliance early. The regulatory landscape may take time to be settle, but public opinion now and long term opportunities to increase the value of data all mean that the taking of data governance measures should not be delayed.
James Mullock is a partner at European law firm Osborne Clarke and heads their Data Protection Group. You can download an executive summary and key insights from the report here: http://goo.gl/oflBh