Day: July 12, 2019

As FTC cracks down, data ethics is now a strategic business weapon

Daniel Wu
Contributor

Dan Wu is a privacy counsel and legal engineer at Immuta. He holds a JD from Harvard University, and is a PhD candidate for Social Policy and Sociology at The Harvard Kennedy School.

Five billion dollars. That’s the apparent size of Facebook’s latest fine for violating data privacy. 

While many believe the sum is simply a slap on the wrist for a behemoth like Facebook, it’s still the largest amount the Federal Trade Commission has ever levied on a technology company. 

Facebook is clearly still reeling from Cambridge Analytica, after which trust in the company dropped 51%, searches for “delete Facebook” reached 5-year highs, and Facebook’s stock dropped 20%.

While incumbents like Facebook are struggling with their data, startups in highly-regulated, “Third Wave” industries can take advantage by using a data strategy one would least expect: ethics. Beyond complying with regulations, startups that embrace ethics look out for their customers’ best interests, cultivate long-term trust — and avoid billion dollar fines. 

To weave ethics into the very fabric of their business strategies and tech systems, startups should adopt “agile” data governance systems. Often combining law and technology, these systems will become a key weapon of data-centric Third Wave startups to beat incumbents in their field. 

Established, highly-regulated incumbents often use slow and unsystematic data compliance workflows, operated manually by armies of lawyers and technology personnel. Agile data governance systems, in contrast, simplify both these workflows and the use of cutting-edge privacy tools, allowing resource-poor startups both to protect their customers better and to improve their services.

In fact, 47% of customers are willing to switch to startups that protect their sensitive data better. Yet 80% of customers highly value more convenience and better service. 

By using agile data governance, startups can balance protection and improvement. Ultimately, they gain a strategic advantage by obtaining more data, cultivating more loyalty, and being more resilient to inevitable data mishaps. 

Agile data governance helps startups obtain more data — and create more value 

With agile data governance, startups can address their critical weakness: data scarcity. Customers share more data with startups that make data collection a feature, not a burdensome part of the user experience. Agile data governance systems simplify compliance with this data practice. 

Take Ally Bank, which the Ponemon Institute rated as one of the most privacy-protecting banks. In 2017, Ally’s deposits base grew 16%, while those of incumbents declined 4%.

One key principle to its ethical data strategy: minimizing data collection and use. Ally’s customers obtain services through a personalized website, rarely filling out long surveys. When data is requested, it’s done in small doses on the site — and always results in immediate value, such as viewing transactions. 

This is on purpose. Ally’s Chief Marketing Officer publicly calls the industry-mantra of “more data” dangerous to brands and consumers alike.

A critical tool to minimize data use is to use advanced data privacy tools like differential privacy. A favorite of organizations like Apple, differential privacy limits your data analysts’ access to summaries of data, such as averages. And by injecting noise into those summaries, differential privacy creates provable guarantees of privacy and prevents scenarios where malicious parties can reverse-engineer sensitive data. But because differential privacy uses summaries, instead of completely masking the data, companies can still draw meaning from it and improve their services. 

With tools like differential privacy, organizations move beyond governance patterns where data analysts either gain unrestricted access to sensitive data (think: Uber’s controversial “god view”) or face multiple barriers to data access. Instead, startups can use differential privacy to share and pool data safely, helping them overcome data scarcity. The most agile data governance systems allow startups to use differential privacy without code and the large engineering teams that only incumbents can afford.

Ultimately, better data means better predictions — and happier customers.

Agile data governance cultivates customer loyalty

According to Deloitte, 80% of consumers are more loyal to companies they believe protect their data. Yet far fewer leaders at established, incumbent companies — the respondents of the same survey — believed this to be true. Customers care more about their data than the leaders at incumbent companies think. 

This knowledge gap is an opportunity for startups. 

Furthermore, big enterprise companies — themselves customers of many startups — say data compliance risks prevent them from working with startups. And rightly so. Over 80% of data incidents are actually caused by errors from insiders, like third party vendors who mishandle sensitive data by sharing it with inappropriate parties. Yet over 68% of companies do not have good systems to prevent these types of errors. In fact, Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica firestorm — and resulting $5 billion fine — was sparked by third party inappropriately sharing personal data with a political consulting firm without user consent. 

As a result, many companies — both startups and incumbents — are holding a ticking time bomb of customer attrition. 

Agile data governance defuses these risks by simplifying the ethical data practices of understanding, controlling, and monitoring data at all times. With such practices, startups can prevent and correct the mishandling of sensitive data quickly.

Cognoa is a good example of a Third Wave healthcare startup adopting these three practices at a rapid pace. First, it understands where all of its sensitive health data lies by connecting all of its databases. Second, Cognoa can control all connected data sources at once from one point by using a single access-and-control layer, as opposed to relying on data silos. When this happens, employees and third parties can only access and share the sensitive data sources they’re supposed to. Finally, data queries are always monitored, allowing Cognoa to produce audit reports frequently and catch problems before they escalate out of control. 

With tools that simplify these three practices, even low-resourced startups can make sure sensitive data is tightly controlled at all times to prevent data incidents. Because key workflows are simplified, these same startups can maintain the speed of their data analytics by sharing data safely with the right parties. With better and safer data sharing across functions, startups can develop the insight necessary to cultivate a loyal fan base for the long-term.

Agile data governance can help startups survive inevitable data incidents

In 2018, Panera mistakenly shared 37 million customer records on its website and took 8 months to respond. Panera’s data incident is a taste of what’s to come: Gartner predicts that 50% of business ethics violations will stem from data incidents like these. In the era of “Big Data,” billion dollar incumbents without agile data governance will likely continue to violate data ethics. 

Given the inevitability of such incidents, startups that adopt agile data governance will likely be the most resilient companies of the future. 

Case in point: Harvard Business Review reports that the stock prices of companies without strong data governance practices drop 150% more than companies that do adopt strong practices. Despite this difference, only 10% of Fortune 500 companies actually employ the data transparency principle identified in the report. Practices include clearly disclosing data practices and giving users control over their privacy settings. 

Sure, data incidents are becoming more common. But that doesn’t mean startups don’t suffer from them. In fact, up to 60% of startups fold after a cyber attack. 

Startups can learn from WebMD, which Deloitte named as one standout in applying data transparency. With a readable privacy policy, customers know how data will be used, helping customers feel comfortable about sharing their data. More informed about the company’s practices, customers are surprised less by incidents. Surprises, BCG found, can reduce consumer spending by one-third. On a self-service platform on WebMD’s site, customers can control their privacy settings and how to share their data, further cultivating trust. 

Self-service tools like WebMD’s are part of agile data governance. These tools allow startups to simplify manual processes, like responding to customer requests to control their data. Instead, startups can focus on safely delivering value to their customers. 

Get ahead of the curve

For so long, the public seemed to care less about their data. 

That’s changing. Senior executives at major companies have been publicly interrogated for not taking data governance seriously. Some, like Facebook and Apple, are even claiming to lead with privacy. Ultimately, data privacy risks significantly rise in Third Wave industries where errors can alter access to key basic needs, such as healthcare, housing, and transportation.

While many incumbents have well-resourced legal and compliance departments, agile data governance goes beyond the “risk mitigation” missions of those functions. Agile governance means that time-consuming and error-prone workflows are streamlined so that companies serve their customers more quickly and safely.

Case in point: even after being advised by an army of lawyers, Zuckerberg’s 30,000-word Senate testimony about Cambridge Analytica included “ethics” only once, and it excluded “data governance” completely.

And even if companies do have legal departments, most don’t make their commitment to governance clear. Less than 15% of consumers say they know which companies protect their data the best. Startups can take advantage of this knowledge gap by adopting agile data governance and educate their customers about how to protect themselves in the risky world of the Third Wave.

Some incumbents may always be safe. But those in highly-regulated Third Wave industries, such as automotive, healthcare, and telecom should be worried; customers trust these incumbents the least. Startups that adopt agile data governance, however, will be trusted the most, and the time to act is now. 

9 Things To Give Up In Order To Become Conscious And Free

To me, consciousness is about emotional self mastery. It’s the energetic and spiritual awareness of yourself and others and having the tools to be empowered and effective in whatever you do. Knowing how to become more conscious starts with that and letting go of a few things in your life.

Here are some things to eliminate in order to become more conscious, happier, healthier, and more resilient.

Expectations

No one ever owes us anything — not even our parents. I live by the motto, “If it is to be, it’s up to me”, which reminds me to get things done for myself.

That’s not to say that we can’t ask for support, help or assistance from others. It’s just that we can’t expect others to be or do anything, other than to be true to themselves.

Expectations feel funky to the person on the receiving end. When someone has an agenda, that person’s energy doesn’t feel like kindness and caring.

Carrying Your Baggage Around

healing consciousness

We aren’t taught in this life how to process and release things and let them go.

It’s important to find a practical way that works for us and our particular psychology. Sometimes, if we’ve had trauma, we need therapy, a psychologist, counseling or a coach to help us.

A lot of people get very hung up on forgiveness as some sort of moral badge of honor. I don’t agree as this is not pragmatic. It is overwhelming for someone injured or abused.

As an empath, I’ve never found I could get free of other people’s stuff by forgiving alone. Instead, I focus on healing myself and understanding where they are functioning from.

Then, I set boundaries knowing that they will always be true to that. To presume they will change or to justify their choices is to short-change them and me.

See Also: How to Really Love Yourself From the Inside Out

Your Conditioning

We’ve all been taught ways of looking at life and absorbed belief systems that shape our filter and our experience of the world.

It can be helpful to consider whether what we were taught is helpful, because sometimes, it’s not. If not, than we need to dismantle these beliefs as they will continue to hinder our progress and development.

We all wanted to idolize our parents as children, but sometimes, they have issues. They may have not been taught emotional intelligence and may do things that don’t serve their highest good, or ours, even if they were loving towards us.

That doesn’t mean we don’t love them. Instead, it means they are human. Searching for our highest truth and being aware of what we’ve decided is essential to a life well lived.

See Also: How And Why To Work On Your Emotional Intelligence

Negative Or Needy Attachments

Real love is the most freeing thing there is, but we love in a real, human and messy way. I talk about “radical appreciation”. This is when we adore someone/something in all its awesomeness without expectation.

Everything in this reality is temporary. It is possible to adore people, contribute to and receive from them, without a heavy or binding attachment with them.

Attachment to situations, places or people can be good. However, often times, we confuse need with love. We place conditions on others or do control so that we can feel safe or secure.

Worshipping At The Alter Of Your Feelings

Everything in personal development references feelings, and I think this is overemphasized.

I’m big on body wisdom. Our body is like a huge radio receiver, constantly giving us information and reacting to things to give us instant awareness. This is what I term emotion (soul reaction channeled through the body).

Feelings are, in my opinion, body sensations based off thoughts. So, they can only be as healthy or useful as the beliefs of which our thoughts are based.

Therefore, feelings are often not helpful — other than as a guide to where we have great or lousy beliefs or thoughts. What’s good to know is if you change your thoughts, your feelings change, too.

Blame

When we are unwilling to own what is and are not ready to look at our own behavior or beliefs, we pass off responsibility to some convenient target. This is toxic for everyone.

Others are responsible for their poor behavior. It has nothing to do with us and everything to do with them. Our reaction to it is everything about us and nothing to do with them.

Conclusions And Judgements

When we judge something, we pass it through the filter of our past experience and conditioning and arrive at a conclusion. It is where which we attach a positive or negative electrical charge (judgment).

That then limits us as we cannot receive anything from that person or situation that doesn’t match our judgment. Awareness is different. It knows what is, but stays open to all possibilities.

Searching For Romantic Love As Some Kind Of Panacea

how to become more conscious love

Many people search for romantic love. With such a huge attachment to the outcome, it can’t manifest for them. They will likely attract a chaotic experience that turns out to be learning rather than loving.

Stop placing meaning in searching for a significant other. Start putting meaning on honoring yourself and your own journey as a purposeful infinite being here in a human body, for a short amount of time.

Have you even ever asked if you really want a relationship, or do you just look for one because you think that’s what life is about?

Using Empathy Against Ourselves

Empathy encompasses a set of capacities that are akin to superpowers, if properly channeled and nurtured.

Untrained empaths struggle, feeling at the effect of life, people’s behavior and being crippled by their own sensitivity and intense awareness.

Unlearning negative empathy requires us to function from knowing, not having feelings based off negative thoughts and beliefs. It also requires boundaries and saying no to guilt.

These nine things can be eliminated to create more consciousness, connect us with our inner wisdom, and help us reach our full potential more easily.

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