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  • Writer's pictureEyram Adjaku

The War for Data

Assorted rogues and nations have made their fortunes by finding oil, bringing it to the surface and selling it to the world. Who owns oil is largely an accident of geology and the whims of mapmakers. That hasn’t stopped armies from waging war in a bid to control this precious resource.  Big data by some accounts, is much more precious than oil. And just like oil, it’s value increases when it’s processed and presented as a set of useful products.  Just as countries own the oil within their borders, companies that collect data and store them on their servers effectively own that data. Your daily Facebook posts for example, belong to Facebook just as your Amazon shopping history is owned by Amazon. We share a staggering amount of information online including our location, ideas, thoughts and feelings and we do this through various social media outlets including Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and even emails. We mostly never stop to question who owns all this data we put out there, let alone what they might use it for or who else might gain access to it. We reveal our innermost feelings and invite marketers to hypothesize as to how best to interact with us.

The interesting thing is that the hypotheses don’t necessarily have to be right.  However they do make for a good starting point in an ongoing conversation between marketer and customer that can be refined and improved through a data driven process of ‘test and  learn’. 

More jurisdictions are introducing directives and legislation intended to guide the access and processing of personal data.

/Notice -  users should be made aware when their data is being collected

/Purpose - users should know why their data is being collected and should expect it to be used for only that purpose

/Consent - users should first consent before their data is disclosed publicly or to any other


/Security -  the collected data must be kept secure and protected from unauthorized uses

/Disclosure -  the identity of the data collector must be stated clearly

/Access -  users must have access to their data and be allowed to make corrections or request for their data to be deleted

/Accountability - users should be able to hold the collectors accountable for not adhering to the above principles

Just as important a question as who owns the data is who has access to analyse it. The data wars may already be upon us.

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