Big Data vs Privacy

Everyone comes across privacy statements, but I doubt if one ever has taken the time to carefully read them. We all think to know what will be done with our data and seem to trust that our information is kept private. However, consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the amounts of data that companies keep. At last week’s RSM Leadership Summit Sanoma was invited to talk about how they try to benefit from the data available from their customers, while at the same time being heavily involved in protecting data and ensuring privacy. According to them, this will be their competitive advantage in the future.

I would not argue that big data is not useful at all, since it has a lot of benefits such as increased customer information and thus the ability to differentiate and price according to preferences. Shapiro and Varian (1998) present various ways for companies to collect data from their customers, such as subscriptions and behavioural analysis. Does this not scare you? The fact that companies can somehow analyse how you have been browsing around on their websites and seem to make decisions based on your behaviour. The fact that somewhere out there at Google or Zalando there is a huge file that contains all kind of data about who you are, where you live, what kind of products you have been buying in the last years and what kind of interesting websites you have visited.

According to my opinion Sanoma will indeed gain competitive advantage by enabling every single customer to access the data that is stored about them. Even better would be if one can also edit this data or make comments, so no decisions are based on a wrong or incomplete profile. Although customer data gives most companies an advantage, maybe companies would even benefit more if they enabled their customers to delete some of the data that is stored about them.



RSM Leadership Summit 2014, 3 October 2014

Shapiro, C & Varian, H 1998. Pricing Information, Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy, Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press


One response to “Big Data vs Privacy”

  1. robinvanbommel says :

    I agree with your opinion in the end. Companies subtract so much information from an individual nowadays that it is not usual that all the information is right. Sometimes it is better for a consumer to help the company and enable them to target even better. In the end it is better that a person gets targeted in the right way, isn’t it?

    If you are having issues with privacy against the “new” companies on the block (Facebook, Google, Zalando), you should read the article in NRC Next (in dutch, I am sorry guys) about Wilmer. Wilmer is looking for his online identity. He comes across information with a lot of different parties he met during his life.

    Do not only think about the new companies, but be aware of webshops, search engines, data brokers, telco’s, the government and their third parties, your cadastre, credit rating agencies, health insurers.

    Maybe we should just embrace it?

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