How will the Facebook scandal change attitudes towards data protection?

Nina Conseil, Senior Director, Product and Marketing at Affinion

Mark Zuckerberg and the 87 million Facebook users whose data may have been wrongly shared with Cambridge Analytica continue to dominate the news agenda. Last week, the story took another turn as Zuckerberg appeared in front of European parliament just days before the GDPR deadline passed and the road ahead is set to be a tough one for the social media giant. Unsurprisingly, users remain furious. But will this, along with the introduction of GDPR, be the catalyst that finally causes a step change in the way businesses and their customers view data protection?

Although this data scandal has global ramifications, it is far from the only time that sensitive personal information has just a drop in the ocean compared to the total amount of sensitive personal information that has fallen into the wrong hands or been shared without consent. Norton’s latest global research shows that 978 million people were victims of cybercrime last year, losing an estimated $178 billion to hackers. Similarly, a hacker dubbed ‘Courvoisier’ stole 78 million usernames and passwords to sell on the dark web, infiltrating the likes of Uber, Argos and Asda.

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?

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Putting education first

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?

Time to help customers own data protection

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.

Taking responsibility

Thanks to the Facebook scandal and a whole host of other high-profile data breaches that continue to drive the news agenda, cybercrime and data privacy has never been a more sensitive issue. Financial services 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. To make this possible, it’s vital that banks and financial institutions do all they can to educate and empower their customers to protect themselves while providing peace of mind. Failing to do so will not only result in data losses, but also trust and inevitably, profit.

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