ACCC probe marks need for increased data governance

When Australia’s consumer watchdog starts taking tech giants to court over mishandling data, it’s time to take notice.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) decision to take Google to court – over allegedly misleading Android users about the steps needed to disable tracking and location data – is a signal Australia is ready to take a defining role in the global drive to regulate technology companies and increase data privacy.

As we watch the debate unfold, and as the impact of data breaches and non-compliance rises, it’s high time Australian businesses increase their own data governance to ensure they’re prepared to meet new data regulation and expectations as they develop.

Data governance in 2020

Traditionally the term data governance was closely aligned to data sovereignty and referred to governing data moving between countries – a vital area in the advent of cloud computing where huge volumes of data can be lifted and shifted abroad in a matter of moments.

But on the micro level, and what it means for everyday businesses, it’s about the management systems in place to ensure data is treated appropriately throughout its lifecycle in an organisation and among its supply chain. As we create more and more data, governance becomes a greater challenge.

There are about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day. Organisations are far past the point where they can manually manage individual pieces of data, so automation is key. They can’t afford to hire multiple data scientists to analyse and arrange data as it comes in, which would be both a waste of the value a team of data scientists can add to an organisation as well as entirely impractical.

Rather, companies need the right systems in place to automatically ensure data is classified, processed and handled in the right way. This could involve eliminating manual scripting and spreadsheets, applying machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse data as it enters the organisation, and much more.

Where challenges can emerge, and what typically makes negative headlines, is sensitive data such as credit card information or personally identifiable information (PII). This kind of data needs to be classified so it is assigned the right ownership and accessibility. Getting this right can help organisations protect themselves from compromising data leaks that can affect customers and damage reputations.

Extracting value from data

Data governance is not just about cyber security and keeping sensitive data safe. For years now, businesses have been stuck in a game of cat and mouse between managing more data than ever before and figuring out what to do with it or how to draw meaningful insights from it.

The key to unlocking the value of big data also lies in data governance. Data now exists in multiple formats, locations and across multiple cloud environments. If it is organised, clean, classified, deduplicated, it is far easier to see the ‘big picture’ of what the data means and how it can help improve customer service, staff retention, or whatever other business-level goal is behind the data.

Society’s tolerance for bad data practices is running thin too – consider a car retailer trying to launch a service that provides suggestions and special offers to current or prospective customers. An offer on a vehicle that comes after a car has been purchased at a higher price could infuriate a customer, whereas an offer sent prior to purchase could make an incredibly valuable difference to them.

There is a fine line in getting these subtleties right, but at the end of the day it comes down to data governance. Consumers and businesses increasingly believe technology and digital services should work perfectly all the time, and are less thankful when it works than frustrated when it doesn’t. As this patience wears further, companies that have control of data and how it is used will ultimately prevail.

The challenge of data governance is not just an IT issue – stakeholders from the CEO through to the coalface need to understand the importance of and strategy for an organisation’s data governance and act accordingly.

As the impact of technology regulation and data requirements and responsibilities such as GDPR and the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme proliferate, and businesses seek to gain real value from data to take advantage of the internet of things (IoT) and other emerging technologies, data governance will become a defining feature of successful digital companies.

Luke McGoldrick is Country Manager A/NZ for multi-cloud data control company Rubrik.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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