Invent a data privacy bot and win € 10,000 – no, seriously

Written by on January 30, 2017 in Opinion with 0 Comments

The race is on to invent a data privacy bot. Literally. Deutsche Telekom has launched a competition, open to all, to invent, and then bring to market with their help a bot that manages users’ online privacy requirements. The winner, selected by data privacy and innovation experts from Deutsche Telekom and members of the company’s data privacy advisory board, will win 10,000 euros.

This is interesting for several reasons.

First, it is another sign of the customers fighting back against companies who use their data to make money. While the unwritten rule of the internet is that in exchange for being advertised at, customers can get to content for free, there are limits. And these limits are being stretched and broken by a handful of companies who are driving customers to look for ways to fight back. Thus the rise and rise of ad blockers and the advertising wars that are raging around the web.

Secondly, more and more telcos are rallying against the perceived or real injustice over how much data they are allowed to use, compared to digital service providers. As Thorsten Dirks, CEO of Telefonica Germany said last year, “people are right to scrutinise any attempt to make money off their data. At the same time they are a handing over data voluntarily to companies such as Google and Facebook,” Dirks sees a double standard among consumers.

Thirdly, and probably most importantly, we have said before that trust will become a differentiator, and soon. And we have also said that telcos are well placed to provide ‘trust as a service’ for their customers. Add security to online privacy and the telco who provides it is well placed to get ahead of the competition.

As the backlash against over-use of customer data begins, it will be patchy at first. It is not surprising that Germany is at the forefront, for historical reasons. In fact a study just out says that 40% of Germans would not share their data in exchange for lower costs or extra services. The level of willingness to do so varies widely, in China, 38% were willing to share data for benefits. The study was also quite specific about the information customers were willing to share. Health, financial data, energy use and driving records were the items willing to be swapped for lower costs or extra services.

The aim of the privacy bot that will be produced by DT will be to manage exactly those preferences for the customer, and not simply block irritating adverts from social media companies.

It will be interesting to see – in three or four years’ time – where we are in the privacy spectrum, and whether concepts such as Vendor Relationship Management have gained significant traction.

If certain internet companies we could mention continue to use customer data as a blunt instrument, then the chances will be quite high.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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