The Adobe Think Tank did not disappoint if one was looking for the provocative statement that will shape the future of the business. However, on the subject of data, and its role as the very foundation for everything in the experience business, the view that data can create the next war did not appear farfetched, and therein is the concern.
Perhaps the making of the comment was already set up in statements such as data is the new oil – a sentiment that global leaders have agreed with on numerous platforms.
“As marketers, we are collecting data with benign intent. We are looking to use this data to understand the consumer, and to create or show services and products that are relevant to them. But as we see data being tapped into with mal-intent, it has cause for alarm,” said Theresa Lamontagne, Head of Digital Marketing & Media Operations, Verizon.
Speaking at the Adobe Think Tank, coinciding with the ongoing Adobe Summit in Las Vegas, Ms Lamontagne quoted the examples of Russia hacking Yahoo, the ongoing conversation on Russia’s interference in the US Presidential Elections, cyber attacks, CIA getting hacked and classified documents leaked putting people’s lives at risk. “It is at a macrolevel but it can be at a personal level. Private life is made public because of apps that are tracking people – there is good and bad in this,” she added.
The bad habits
Taking a step back, Rana June, CEO, Lightwave reflected that the industry created the folklore to collect as much data as possible. “As long as we have it, we can worry about what to do with it later. That started as a behavior, hoping that AI will solve the issue but it has created a bad behavior,” she said.
“Social media has created an incredible training set for machine learning. There is so much data that we are a step away from creating an accurate depiction of a person, and there are so many ways in which that can be used,” she added.
The objective of the panel was to not dispute the good that data can do but the fact that there was another side to the picture, and businesses needed to take cognizance of that. This is imperative more so as companies are looking at ways to centralize data as that can unlock its true value but that increases the risk significantly as well.
“Data can drive increase in life expectancy. There is a lot of good it can do. But the number one practicing law in the next five years will be on AI and what it can do,” stated Daniel Newman, Forbes Contributor, CEO Broadsuite, adding, “We give away so much information today about our whereabouts and our plans. Machines know, and for good or bad, they can make quick assertions of what is happening.”
Companies did not intend to become data companies but they are and they have to take the responsibility that comes with it. Businesses need to make informed decisions as part of the information design. They must focus on creating trust and using data safely, aware of the negative consequences.
The data artists
The data dilemma has many contours – one being that consumers don’t care enough about what they are sharing. There is an ideal situation, wherein companies educate and inform consumers about the data they are sharing and then there is the real situation, where most users accept company, terms without reading the fine print.
The discussion at Adobe Think Tank reiterated that the new world would demand making the fine print readable. It would also put the onus on companies to explain to their consumers the monetary value of the data they are sharing, and to set the right benchmarks and industry practices on data.
Mr Newman had a word of caution here. “Privacy is like voting. The laymen do not want to understand it. They want someone to understand it for them, and explain the confines of that construct. It is important for us to accept that this is where we are, versus rewriting the rules.”
Ethan Imboden, VP, Head of Venture Design, Frog disagreed with the view, and said, “The ramification of giving up on owning personal information is enormous. We cannot give up on educating people.”
Perhaps the one thing that everyone agreed on was that the game has to change. While marketers loved to work with data scientist for data driven marketing solutions, the next level would be the data artists. CEOs may get hired or fired based on their ability to deliver experience and be data artists.
As marketers, it may be difficult to make the process cumbersome and slowdown the product adoption while educating people but those who can create the experience while managing the two simultaneously, will really take it home because they will create a kind of trust and intimacy that is irreplaceable.