It’s powering every aspect of business operations, but the key to success is to gather information without violating customer trust.

With nearly half of all companies dropping money on big data, businesses definitely have figured out the importance of information-gathering on their initiatives. However, projects continue to flounder as leaders try to find ways to effectively use the information they’re collecting. After all, collecting information is one thing; interpreting it and putting it to work is something completely different.

Complicating matters is that the public is still testy when it comes to having their actions monitored, especially when businesses aren’t open about how they’re using the information.
In a few short years, gathering and using data will need to become a refined science. Some businesses will master it and some won’t. For the brands that figure out a way to use the information to better understand and interact with consumers, data analytics will provide a way to wipe out the competition. 
The businesses that can accomplish their goals while still keeping customer trust will be more adept at earning long-term loyalty. That’s pretty huge.
If you help run or build brands, you already know just how essential transparency is when gathering customer information. The Privacy Act of 1974 sets policies on taking and distributing consumer info, describing the permission you need before data can be shared with third parties. 

Here are a few ways brands are likely to handle data collection, dissemination and disclosure in the future.

Voice activation
Technology will continue the trend toward speaking to devices rather than holding them. Speak it and it shall be done.
As voice-activated devices like Alexa and Siri make their way into homes, automobiles and offices, new issues are emerging. The Executive Women’s Forum on Information Security and Risk Management recently launched the Voice Privacy Industry Group, designed to set basic guidelines for how voice services should gather data and what they can do with that info once they have it. 
The big issue with voice services is the ownership each person has over his or her own voice. This brings security concerns, as well as a need to clarify what can and cannot be done with the voice data a consumer provides through these services. 
Like other services that collect information on consumers, the Voice Privacy Industry Group believes voice services should fully disclose information they collect, along with giving customers the chance to opt out.

Location permission

A large number of services, like ride-sharing providers, require customers to turn on location tracking. In order for passengers and drivers to locate each other, apps need the ability to gather location data from each party’s phone. 
In recent years, there have been concerns about how such apps track customers when they aren’t actively using them. In general, experts say companies are using location data to geotarget customers, in other words providing offers and ads based on where a device is at the time a person is online. 
Since customers have expressed a preference for personalized ads, this type of targeting will likely only continue to grow. Still, customers prefer not to feel like “big brother” is watching their every move, so it will continue to be important for brands to tell customers exactly what information they’re collecting and what they plan to do with it once they have it.

Social sharing
In recent years, the amount of data being collected by social-media sites has climbed, raising concerns from privacy advocates. Many social-media users willingly hand over information on everything they do—from the meals they eat to personal news like pregnancies and marriages. In the wrong hands, this data could be sold to third parties who might target those customers with spam and junk mail. Although social-media sites have privacy policies, many users don’t consciously realize that the photos, videos and status updates they post could be used to gather data on them. 
Imagine this: In the coming years, all of these posts will become an archive of information that can be used to get a bigger picture of each customer. As long as regulatory authorities don’t stifle these activities, customers could see the ads and offers they receive targeted toward them in even more refined ways.

Traffic patterns

For sharing-economy sites like Airbnb, data science is tied closely into doing business. These sites specialize in matching customers with things like accommodations, so the more data they can collect, the better they can serve each person who uses their service. 
Across all areas of the travel industry, predictive analytics is the technology to watch. Whether you own a hotel or reserve your home to travelers, the more you can learn about traffic patterns, the more you can prepare to meet demand.

Whether a business specializes in predicting future customer behavior, or learning from past actions, data is essential. But protecting the very customers who trust them is just as essential. By setting strict privacy policies and putting measures in place to protect customers, companies can achieve their marketing/business goals while also keeping customers safe.

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