Each day, we are collectively responsible for over 5.6 billion searches on Google and send over 100 billion messages on WhatsApp. Additionally, every click, swipe, selfie, and video online create a continuously growing digital footprint. The one thing that every business and consumer has in common is that they will have more data tomorrow than they have today. These are just a few reasons why data privacy is becoming a growing concern for everyone.

Concerns around how our data is being used were exacerbated after reports surfaced that Facebook had boasted to advertisers how they could identify the precise moment when a teenager felt insecure and needed a confidence boost. In addition, the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and digital assistants added even more data points from binge viewing to heating systems and the contents of a smart refrigerator.

Consumers are regretting trading privacy for convenience.

After years of sacrificing privacy in the name of convenience, many are waking up to the fact that big tech companies are leveraging AI and machine learning to take big data into creepy territory. In the US, many Americans are beginning to feel that they have no control over their data and believe it’s impossible to go through their daily lives without being tracked. As a result, an increasing number of consumers are looking to brands to do the right thing as they begin taking their business to more ethical companies.

The reality for every consumer is that the moment their personal data becomes exposed, there isn’t a way to remove it from the internet. As a result, our digital footprints are becoming a permanent record stored against our user profile, which can be both good and bad depending on the circumstance.

In the UK, a digital forensics unit proved that an individual who claimed to be home washing his clothes had actually activated his smart washing machine using his phone at the crime scene. Other smart devices also create data points around heart rate and other activities during timeframes to help police with their investigations. We are all surrounded by big data that brands promise will make our lives easier. But in the wrong hands, it can work against consumers rather than for them.

There are many great examples of how data can offer impressive personalized services such as Spotify and Netflix. But get it wrong, and a business can quickly drift into creepy territory. Without consent and context, data collection can feel like an invasion of your customer’s privacy, leading to mistrust and suspicion. As a result, every business must repeat the mantra; with great power comes great responsibility.

Why privacy is a corporate responsibility issue

Consumers are demanding greater transparency about how their data is used. Many would be much more comfortable sharing their data with a brand if they knew how it would be used and were assured that it won’t be sold to partners or third parties. But a recent report revealed that only 53% of the business leaders surveyed indicated that they were actively informing users of how their data is used.

However, the arrival of the GDPR legislation has forced every business to take protecting customer data seriously. With fines of up to 4% of annual global turnover at stake, Twitter became the first tech giant to be on the wrong end of a cross-border enforcement action. Data breach penalties for millions of dollars also followed for British Airways and Marriott. But it was Amazon that received the largest GDPR fine to date with a fine of €746 million ($887 million) over its targeted advertising practices.

Similar legislations are also appearing in the US, with the California Consumer Privacy Act leading the way. Businesses of all sizes must have appropriate technical and organizational measures in place to protect their customers’ data. The trends around privacy regulation can no longer be ignored. Every business is challenged with re-examining their user engagement strategies and what data they are capturing at every data point along the customer journey.

Data privacy, an opportunity to rebuild customer trust

The KPMG report, Privacy Technology: What’s Next? Highlights how businesses can ensure that customer data is better secured while protecting their privacy too. We have come a long way since the wild west days of the internet when data protection policies didn’t even exist. Data privacy and data protection have become critical to every business as consumers increasingly demand a more transparent approach to how their data is used, stored, and shared.

As consumers become warier about sharing their data online combined with regulators demanding greater privacy requirements, the wind of change is transforming the digital landscape. Rather than fearing data protection and privacy, they should be seen as an opportunity to rebuild consumer trust in your brand and even creating a business advantage.