July 28, 2017 Chris Gabriel

Organisations Must Match Personal Digital Experiences with Strong Personal Data Privacy

Like many today I am hooked and delighted with digital experiences. Like many today I am horrified and totally fed up with digital experiences.

I guess that is the world we live in.  Yes, we are in a digital age, but an embryonic one, and because of that the potential that digital offers brings out the best in people and businesses and alas the worst in them.  These best examples of digital really do delight.

The Open Bionics team, based in Bristol shows the force for good that digital can bring to the world.  It shows how digital can bring a like-minded group of individuals together, to work together, innovative to solve major human problems, extend their work out to others around the world not for profit but for the good of others, who without this project would lead less fulfilled lives or in many cases have no life chances at all. Open Bionics is the combination of human inspiration coupled with the potential of digital innovation.

What is not to like about digital?

My wife on the other hand was last week shown the downright stupidity of organisations when it comes to even the simplest of digital interactions.

She was purchasing a product from a well-known retailer, who for the sake of me trying to give them the benefit of the doubt shall rename nameless, when the sales assistant asked her for her email address so they could send an electronic receipt.  My wife had just paid for the goods on her debit card and already had a paper receipt in her hand so declined this generous offer to fill up her inbox with an electronic receipt that served no purpose whatsoever.  “Oh”, exclaimed the sales assistant, “we must do it, just in case you want to bring the goods back and lose the paper receipt, it’s really for your benefit”.   My wife, fixed them with a steely eye and said she really didn’t see the point and demanded to know if this was simply a ruse to send her marketing emails every month until the end of time.  “Absolutely not” said the assistant; my wife warily agreed.

And, the sales assistance was good with her word.  The company had no intention of sending my wife a marketing email every month until the end of time; instead they would send her a marketing email every day at precisely 5:00PM just to make sure she knew it was coming.

She told me this after three days of emails, she had got to the point when the anger had just tipped her over the edge.

Of course, she had ignored all the emails; she could even have taken a moment to create an email rule to delete them on arrival, or made a small effort and click on the unsubscribe button so they stopped forever.  She probably will after the anger has subsided to just a raging boil.

The point is she shouldn’t have had to do any of these things to protect herself from unwanted intrusion into her inbox.  She walked into a shop, bought some goods, paid on her credit card and that should have been it, but digital just had to get in the way.  It might feel like a small intrusion into her digital life that we have all experienced; but this was July 2017 not July 2007 (and what a long decade it has been) so even writing this blog feels like I am revisiting an old wound.  But this was last week.  Who in a major high street retailer would think that my wife’s experience with their brand would be enhanced through a clear and calculated breach of her digital privacy?  You can probably tell that I am still annoyed and totally perplexed by this sheer digital stupidity.

Now, in about eight months from now the game will have changed.

There are tons of articles and blogs and a good deal of nonsense being talked about GDPR, but this new data privacy regulation is now closer to us than the birth of a summer baby, and it is likely to provide just as many spring sleepless nights to companies who like our retailer have absolutely no clue about what they should and shouldn’t be doing with personal data; whether it has been given freely or has been conned out of somebody.

And here is nub of it.

Data Privacy isn’t a luxury afforded to us by companies who already have our data or who will ask us for it in the future.  Data Privacy isn’t a nice to have in digital experiences, but something companies can trade away if their end of year sales figures isn’t up to scratch and they need to sell us more.  And Data Privacy is absolutely not something sales assistants can be told to ignore to capture an email address because somebody sitting in HQ told them to.

Data Privacy is now the bedrock of digital experience.  And it isn’t just about shoppers of course.  Patients, students, drivers, airline passengers, gym club members, loyalty card holders, even those generous enough to donate to charities are now able to become the powerful arbiters of the data covered under the legislation and the privacy and management of it at all times and for as long as it exists.

Now, I am not one for confrontation, and perhaps I have been a bit harsh on the retailer who continues to SPAM my wife, but, they told a lie to gain access to her digital data with an intent to use it in a way my wife had expressly told them she didn’t consent to.  It might have been a verbal no, but it was still a no, and next year the sales assistant will have to have the knowledge to understand what that means.  May 25th might seem a long way off but for many companies who are still engaged in poor data practice that due date will arrive before they have had time to even knit it a little cardigan and booties.  For some it might even be twins.

Now I hope for their sake my wife never needs to buy a product in this retailer again, because that request for an email address for a personal digital receipt might set off earthquake warning sensors somewhere off the mid-Atlantics shelf, but I will be honest, the person I feel sorry for most is the sales assistant.

If the company they work for would do that to a customer’s personal data then what on earth could they be doing to theirs?  They hold their bank account, address, may health insurance records, and possibly know about minor criminal convictions openly provided as part of the interview process.   They are probably the greatest winners from GDPR because at least they can hold their employer to account, and given their employers current behaviour to personal data, they likely need that protection most.

Chris Gabriel

Author: Chris Gabriel

Chris is Chief Digital Officer at the Techpulse Group. He is enthusiastic believer in all things digital and the opportunities afforded by innovation. He also makes fabulous pies and enjoys telling stories.

About the Author

Chris Gabriel
Chris Gabriel Chris is Chief Digital Officer at the Techpulse Group. He is enthusiastic believer in all things digital and the opportunities afforded by innovation. He also makes fabulous pies and enjoys telling stories.