Data is now the most valuable asset in the world, surpassing oil as the most profitable commodity. Data giants like Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple are among the most valued companies in the world, not only because of their innovative technology, but because they have exposure to much of a user’s most private and sensitive information.

Today’s consumers have become accustomed to sharing their most personal information with organizations without hesitation, including names, addresses, date of birth, phone numbers, political views, sexuality, health history, buying habits, and intentions. As a result, the concept of a ‘digital twin’ was born -- a play on the fact that organizations possess so much data on an individual, they’re able to create a digital replica of the entity. But where is this information being stored and how is it being shared? To date, these questions have been left largely unanswered.

A recent PwC report found that just 25 percent of consumers believe companies handle their sensitive data properly, and only 10 percent believe they have complete control over their data. But even with this sentiment, consumers are still sacrificing their security and privacy for convenience -- it is what we have all become dangerously accustomed to. The year 2021 will mark a time when data management is questioned by consumers and prioritized by organizations, beginning with minimizing the sheer amount of data collected by businesses today.

A new year brings less data collection

In 2021, however, the tides will turn -- organizations will begin collecting less information on consumers. Instead of looking to get as much information on consumers as possible, without a plan for how this data will be used, executives will become more aware of the volume and types of data their organization is collecting, handling and transmitting. For example, they’ll begin to ask business leaders -- do we really need to know our customers’ mother’s maiden name? Is storing a person’s political views in a CRM record actually useful or relevant to close a deal? Ultimately, they’ll look to limit the data collected to information that has a justifiable business need and in accordance with their stated data privacy policy.

A better understanding of collected data

In addition to minimizing the amount of personal information collected on consumers, organizations will also seek to gain a better understanding of the type of data they’ve already collected. It’s very common for organizations to collect and forget -- for example, not knowing where data is stored, who it’s been shared with, or how it’s been accessed.

With the upcoming year’s renewed spotlight on data management, we’ll begin to see greater awareness and improvement in this area. More organizations will look to hire Chief Data Officers (CDOs) or at the very least, personnel who are focussed on gaining a better grasp on data collection and handling, while implementing best practices like data discovery to locate and remediate sensitive data stored in unknown locations.

The global pandemic has increased security risk for organizations and as budgets shrink, regulatory compliance declines, and employees continue to work remotely, organizations must look to mitigate risk wherever they can. A few first steps to take include simply asking consumers for less personal information, and gaining a better understanding of the current data in possession -- especially information stored in the unknown.

Read the first part of Stephen Cavey's article here