• Atul Gupta, Partner |

Consumer data continues to proliferate in our hyperconnected world amid the ubiquitous use of smartphones and mobile technology, social media channels, online shopping services and the endless race to deliver modern, personalized customer experiences.

Digitally enabled organizations are tapping into data to inform decision making, reshape services and enhance business value. And fast-emerging technologies such as 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are poised to dramatically heighten connectivity and the unprecedented volume of consumer data that businesses embrace to shape modern customer strategies.

During the monumental changes of the last 2 years, few industries have enabled digital transformation and service delivery more than the technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) sector. Much of the pandemic-induced transition to remote working and online education can be credited to TMT players delivering powerful online capabilities.

Fast-evolving capabilities are emerging to shape the ‘age of the customer’; however, in my view, the critical need for enhanced controls, transparency, security and protection surrounding customer data has become unmistakable.

To help drive progress, I believe the smart use of data privacy technology will need to mature quickly to securely manage today’s endlessly expanding data universe.

Consumers remain concerned about data security

Research continues to show that consumers have significant concerns about data protection and how businesses use their personal data. KPMG’s Me, My Life, My Wallet study found that 55 percent of consumers cited data protection as their primary expectation of companies, with 47 percent also saying they expect companies to never sell or share their personal data.

KPMG’s Corporate Data Responsibility report, meanwhile, found that 40 percent of US consumers surveyed do not trust businesses to ethically use their personal data. Sixty-eight percent of consumers also said they are concerned about the level of data being collected by businesses. And 86 percent said data privacy is a growing concern for them.

Consumer wariness about data protection is understandable given ongoing reports of data breaches and the rising threat of increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks. At the same time, regulators are sharpening their focus on data security and continuing to address regulatory obligations related to consumer data management and protection.

Make no mistake, the volume of potential regulatory changes, combined with emerging technology, growing cyber threats and rising public awareness are creating unprecedented pressures for organizations to respond appropriately and without delay.

TMT businesses are underutilizing crucial data

TMT businesses have been well versed in data management in recent years. The TMT industry has been both a beneficiary and driver of new age economies created by data proliferation, as highlighted in the KPMG publication Privacy technology: What’s next?:

  • The TMT industry will enable 11.7 billion IoT-connected devices, outnumbering non-IoT connected devices (10 billion).
  • The ongoing 5G technology roll-out promises higher speed, lower latency and increased bandwidth to support billions of connected devices transmitting unprecedented volumes of data.
  • Edge computing will enable data processing close to data sources, reducing the amount of data that must be transported centrally.

While capabilities and new advantages continue to emerge, I believe it’s critical that TMT companies better utilize data to help maximize business value and treat data strategy as a foundational enterprise capability.

To better understand the data landscape in TMT, KPMG’s The Data Imperative report, a collaboration with HFS Research, analyzed survey results from more than 300 global TMT executives. The study shows that TMT companies are failing to capitalize on the value of data they are generating today:

  • Only 32 percent say they are fully utilizing their customer data.
  • More than 80 percent believe they are underutilizing their data volume for competitive advantage.
  • Fewer than 10 percent rate their level of maturity as world class for data monetization, data management and architecture, as well as data quality and governance.
  • 75 percent believe that using enterprise data effectively can radically change their business models.

As businesses and technology providers collect increasingly granular data points to inform business strategies and decision making, becoming a truly data-driven organization includes the need to address privacy concerns and implement robust data governance via new privacy tech.

Recent incidents are driving home, as never before, the critical need for enhanced data security and appropriate technology adoption. A major telecommunications provider, for example, recently warned that information, including the names, birthdates, social security numbers and driver’s license data of 50 million current, former or prospective customers, was exposed via a data breach. 

Privacy technologies and establishing digital trust are the way forward

As noted, regulators are scrutinizing data security closely as cyber security threats and attacks soar. Data protection requirements recently emerged in China’s Personal Information Protection Law, while in the US, the state of Virginia signed the Consumer Data Protection Act in March 2021, making Virginia the second state to enact a consumer privacy and data security law, following California’s Privacy Rights and Enforcement Act. Many other countries such as Brazil, Thailand and India are pursuing similar initiatives.

However, raising the bar on data protection cannot be established through data protection frameworks alone. There is a crucial need to focus on privacy technologies that are designed for a bold new age of secure data use and management.

KPMG’s Privacy technology: What’s next? highlights that “privacy awareness is forcing organizations to evolve privacy systems and programs. In the race to enhance data security and privacy protection, technology continues to replace manual processes and ultimately helps businesses meet global privacy laws.”

Replacing inefficient manual processes with automation is inevitable for firms hoping to keep up with the evolving ecosystem and the impact of regulators, consumer expectations and innovative competitors. The report notes that as next-generation privacy technology emerges, adoption will be across three key areas: process orchestration; personal data management and governance; risk management and compliance. Given these considerations, an enhanced data privacy and protection regime should include:

  • Data governance toward precise overall data visibility and protection. This also enables a new level of speed, accuracy and efficiency in meeting obligations.
  • Use of technology in process orchestration, along with ‘privacy by design’ to enhance process consistency while simplifying measures to meet data privacy obligations.
  • Governance, risk management and compliance are driving the integration of wider risk management with data privacy requirements. Integrated risk management offers a connected view of risk across all lines of defense and risk types.
  • Devising the right ‘data compound’ to create a precise ‘mix’ of personal data elements that unlock new opportunities for insight-based decision making, innovation and growth, while ensuring privacy, security and ethics concerns.
  • Privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) will help address challenges regarding personal data use, data security and consumers’ control of their data.

In my view, digital trust among consumers is pivotal to successful data management and trusted relationships among all key business stakeholders. Privacy technology is emerging rapidly and is expected to be a cornerstone in establishing digital trust.

The TMT industry is increasingly recognizing today’s critical need for digital trust and we are seeing a heightened focus among business leaders for strong data governance, data protection and privacy measures across the entire range of products and services offered. As security needs, capabilities and expectations continue to evolve, I believe there is no time to lose in implementing modern privacy technologies that will help optimize secure data use for a new era. 

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