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The right way for businesses to manage customer data

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Just about every kind of organisation has a reliance on data for their daily operations. It should therefore come as no surprise that data is set to reach 175 zettabytes (1 billion terabytes) by 2025.

What is shocking, however, is the growth of data generated by connected internet of things (IoT) devices alone which is forecast to reach 79.4ZB by 2025.

As a result of continued and prolific growth, managing customer data has become the Achilles heel of IT; a fatal weakness ready to be exploited. It’s therefore crucial that these data vulnerabilities be resolved if companies want to do business right.

A new reason to play it safe

The impending arrival of the Consumer Data Right (CDR) in Australia means business leaders must make data an organisational strength, rather than a weakness. The CDR will give consumers greater access to and control over their data. Ultimately, this will drive a climate of heightened sensibility when it comes to data in Australia. Whilst the CDR will first apply to the banking sector, there are plans to roll it out more broadly across the telecommunications and energy sectors.

With this in mind, there are five key considerations for business leaders when implementing data related processes in this changing landscape.

Bind data to a specific purpose

This is the most important consideration when working with personal data, because this process aims to prevent the misuse of collected data. For example, if customer data is collected for an order request, it should solely be used for that order and only during that specific time. Any use outside these parameters would be considered misuse.

Realise the storage period

Organisations should always balance how long they need to store different kinds of data with how long they are legally allowed to keep it. How long data is needed will depend on the business, so it cannot easily be quantified. Therefore, businesses should consider alternatives for storing personal customer data. For example, if a company requires a date-of-birth to verify a customer’s age, the success of the verification can be stored, as oppose to the actual date-of-birth information.

Activate anonymisation protocols

A popular way to protect personal data and stay on the safe side is to remove any direct personal references. This requires processing the customer data so it can no longer be attributed to a specific "data subject" without the use of additional information. A popular method of pseudo-anonymisation is the formation of hash values. In this way, customer profiles are created which are no longer related to a specific person.

Choose data minimalism

We are witnessing a shift from "data maximalism" to minimalism, inspired or perhaps completely dominated by ever changing compliance and legislation (see: GDPR). The real question is, is this data really needed? Organisations should only save the information needed. This not only protects businesses against data theft, but also against accidental misuse of data by stakeholders.

Seek a concise overview

To comply with the changing legislations, companies need to take some security measures and monitor data effectively. Monitoring tools provide a way for business leaders to understand everything from specific datasets and users, to database availability and performance. These metrics can be used to drive overall compliance and accountability when it comes to the use of data across an organisation.

There can be no doubt that data domination is coming – it’s inevitable. Business leaders must be able to manage the data coming into their organisations or will risk falling behind when Australia’s legislation catches up with corporate activities. The race to comply with policy and protocol has begun, and companies must seek to implement best practice now. This will ensure they’re able to use the data they collect as openly and honestly as consumers will demand.

Read next: What the next big data breach target looks like

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