Will the Facebook scandal cause a data protection step change?

By Rikard af Sandeberg, Director, Product Management & Marketing Nordics

Over the past month the news agenda has been dominated by Mark Zuckerberg and the 87 million Facebook users whose data may have been wrongly shared with Cambridge Analytica. Despite it being the most widely used social media site in the world, it appears that something as inconspicuous as consenting to data being accessed while completing a personality quiz on the site is enough to have seen the personal data of connections shared with third parties without permission. Unsurprisingly, users are furious. But will this, alongside the introduction of GDPR, be the catalyst that finally causes a transformation in the way businesses and their customers view data protection? Time will tell.

Despite the vast scale of this data scandal, it is far from the only time that sensitive personal information has fallen into the wrong hands or shared without consent. The latest global research from cybersecurity expert Norton found that 978 million people were victims of cybercrime last year, losing an estimated $178 billion to hackers. Similarly, last year’s WannaCry ransomware attack affected 99 countries including China, Russia and Spain, making it one of the largest hacks in history – and more recently, Middle-East ride-hail app Careem saw the data of 14 million drivers and customers stolen.

Clearly, data privacy remains a serious issue for both businesses and their customers and regulation like GDPR is helping to address this. So what needs to change to ensure sensitive data remains private and consumers can protect themselves?

Education is the first step

Sophos research shows people are currently more worried about cybercrime than physical crime, yet a third of them admit ignoring data breach emails. Clearly businesses have more to do to ensure their customers’ data remains secure – from taking prevention measures themselves to educating consumers in how to act if they fear they’ve been hacked.

The latter couldn’t be more pertinent, as the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report found that despite a 13 per cent increase in data vulnerabilities, people don’t know who to turn to for help, while 41 per cent can’t identify a phishing email and guess at its legitimacy.

This is just the start of the education process though. What more can businesses do to help keep their customers safe, at a time when activity on social media is enough to endanger the most sensitive of data?

Helping customers take responsibility

Of course, it’s easy to think cybercrime will only happen to other people but Norton research shows 10 per cent of the world’s population experience cybercrime every year  – be it ID theft, financial fraud or a misuse of their data. It’s therefore not long before we reach a point where almost everyone has either been a victim or knows a someone directly impacted by cybercrime.

Regardless of how it happens and who’s at fault, one mistake can have a huge impact – either personally, financially, or both.

Financial institutions such as banks and insurance providers, for example, need to arm their customers with the tools they need to protect themselves – whether it be services which actively scan for potential data privacy risks or educational to help increase awareness. It is this level of service that will drive both increased security and brand advocacy. This way of thinking is starting the hit the mainstream and we’ve already started working with financial institutions across the world to offer cyber and ID protection to their customers.

As disruptive innovators begin to transform the financial services market and offer additional choice to consumers, the provision of services that raise awareness and help improve data privacy and cyber security could become a key differentiator in driving loyalty.

One example of this that has the potential to directly impact levels of consumer awareness is dark web scanning. Most consumers won’t have seen the dark web, let alone considered whether their personal data has been published there. By offering this additional peace of mind, customers are given the option to take action before they suffer a loss or damages. In taking this approach, businesses are going the extra mile to show they truly care about the security of their customers’ cyber security and data.

Take responsibility

Thanks to the Facebook scandal and the spate of high-profile data breaches last year, cybercrime and data privacy has never been a more sensitive issue. Businesses and customers alike should be seeing this as the time to change their ways and build an ecosystem in which data is as secure as possible. A key component to this is ensuring companies are educating and empowering their customers to protect themselves but also provide peace of mind. Failing to do so will inevitably result in a loss of data, trust and customers.

Image credit: www.thoughtcatalog.com