Putting the Personal Back into Personal Data

In this article from frequent guest writer Michael Queenan (CEO, Nephos Technologies), we learn about why enterprises should get ahead of the curve when it comes to personal data and data protection issues.

Whether shopping online, setting up a social media account or simply reading a news article, seemingly every organisation wants to know our name and contact information in exchange for their free services.

Constantly being asked to share our personal data has led many to question what actually happens to the data we share and whether it is really necessary to give it away in the first place. In addition, as 10% of UK homes now have smart devices – e.g. an Alexa, a FitBit, a Ring doorbell – data is constantly being collected about us, even behind our own front door. Currently, large corporations and government institutions alike that collect this data, whilst responsible for protecting it, also have a say in how it is used and sold. This means our personal data is anything but personal.

Whilst legislation like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was an important first step in introducing rules about how organisations should hold and protect personal data, it arguably does not go far enough. GDPR was simply a framework that set guidelines for collecting and processing such data but it does not specify exactly what businesses can and cannot do with their customers’ personal information. Consequently, the existing model of corporate ownership enables a huge and ever-increasing loss of freedom for the individual.

As the problem continues to grow and is set to be one of the biggest issues facing society today, how can we drive change in this situation?

Taking Back Control of Personal Data

Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy fix for such a big problem. Although individual organisations can take the pledge to be responsible with their customers’ data, for large corporations who mine personal data to generate income, this is not a privilege they are likely to willingly give up. Therefore, to enforce such change effectively, governmental intervention is required. This could happen in a number of ways:

  • Legislative change
    No longer a part of the European Union, the UK is presented with an opportunity to introduce new data protection legislation, separate from GDPR regulations. This provides the potential to regulate how personal data is used and clearly set rules and boundaries on what organisations can and can’t do with customer data. Implementing such laws could make the UK a global leader in this field.However, it is important that the UK’s efforts to enforce this legislation are reflected across the globe. Governments around the world must come to a global agreement on how to regulate the use of personal data. Without this united approach, countries will be put in competition with each other – organisations wanting to avoid the implemented legislation would simply move their businesses to other countries where the law doesn’t apply, thus the situation would not improve.
  • Blockchain
    Another possibility of tackling this issue is blockchain – this would allow personal data to be democratised. Identity-centric blockchain, owned by a neutral and not-for-profit third party, would guarantee that the individual is in control of their stored data. Similar to a National Insurance number, everyone would have a national email address associated with their blockchain identity meaning only they would have access to their data. This model would allow every citizen to choose who they share their data with and what data they are willing to give access to. This would make data privacy what it should be: your choice!
  • Education
    It is also important that the government enforces educational initiatives. We all know the importance of shredding private and confidential documents to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, but we must treat our personal data the same when sharing it online. These educational initiatives should target everyone, not just those who are not digitally native. After all, research suggests that Gen-Z are the most likely to lose money or data from falling victim to cybercrime.

Be a Data Protector

As the world becomes more and more digitised – with the increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies and the growing phenomenon of the metaverse – consumers are understandably becoming concerned about how their data is being used and shared. Over the next few years, we can expect to see consumers making deliberate choices about which organisations and businesses they interact with based on their data privacy and management practices.

As we have seen previously with fairtrade, sustainability and diversity, it pays to be ahead of the curve. Organisations that demonstrate responsible use of consumer data will prosper and stand out from competitors. Take the steps to be a data protector now and reap the benefits in the long run.


Michael Queenan
CEO & Co-founder, Nephos Technologies

Michael Queenan is the CEO and co-founder of Nephos Technologies, founded in 2013. Michael is responsible for the overall strategy, direction and branding at Nephos, identifying future trends and building centres of excellence to deliver on those trends.