As I’ve written before most mobile phone subscribers are unaware of the sweeping usage rights they give to their network providers in relation to their usage, and location data when they sign up to a mobile phone contract. The reporting this weekend in the UK of the partnership between EE, the largest UK mobile provider and Ipsos-Mori in relation to the use of mobile phone data will perhaps open up some debate around this issue. Whilst it is likely that both companies will have been very careful to ensure that they comply with all relevant data protection legislation, it does highlight a challenge that business models will have to look at increasingly in the future, that of data and information usage in the age of big data.
Mobile devices are one of the few devices that are truly personal, by our side almost constantly, and collect a multitude of data. They are therefore a real proxy for our patterns, behaviours, and our lifestyles. With the growth of smartphones this has allowed a multitude of innovations in terms of the services offered and what was a communications device becoming a personal data store, a personal assistant, and increasingly a payment device.
I spoke recently at the IACCM EMEA conference about the the opportunities and challenges for the contract management community in relation to new business models. In one case study I highlighted the potential opportunities in the healthcare field for innovation to help move society from a largely “symptom driven system” to a “preventative approach”. This will likely be unlocked by a mixture of technologies that are probably here now, but more importantly, an approach to data/information management that provides a balance of protection and access, backed up with strong recourse when things perhaps go wrong. Only when this contractual framework is in balance between the various stakeholder groups will it give people the confidence to allow their data to be captured and used to their health benefit.
The benefits to both us as individuals and in helping ensure that healthcare remains affordable and effective are significant, however, unless we get the regulatory and contractual balance right around data/information we will likely miss the opportunity.
As I stated earlier it’s likely that the business arrangement that EE and Ipsos-Mori have agreed to will be within the realms of the relevant regulations today and the agreements with the mobile phone users, however, what both companies are dealing with is reputation. Both companies proclaim on their websites that trust and transparency is key to them, however, the fact that the first many EE customers will have been aware of the relationship was through the Sunday papers will potentially call this into question in many people’s minds and therefore it moves from a contractual issue to one of relationship and reputation. It highlights that in the information age organisations will have to not just meet the regulations but exceed them by some margin if consumers are to truly trust them.
As different organisations start to capture and curate different, often asynchronous datasets, about our daily lives, it is only time before people develop widely available technologies that re-assemble these individual datasets to show the whole picture. In the age of big data it’s this concern that, if not openly addressed will remain a concern and potentially undermine the potential ‘good’ uses for big data in the future such as in the healthcare arena.
It is, therefore, important that we look to the future and create debate and action to progress the regulations and approaches required to continually evolve and maintain the balance of benefits to all involved from the consumer who is the often unwhitting data creator, through to the organisation capturing, storing and curating the data, and the organisations who wish to gain from the insights that it can bring. It is only when we have transparency, trust, and balance throughout this ecosystem that we will unlock the real value of big data and be able to create sustainable business models in this space.