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I joined Merkle Aquila in September 2018, straight after acquiring a Masters in Business Analytics from the University of Edinburgh. This was at a time when the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal had rocked the world, and data privacy was all that people could think about. This particular incident was a watershed event that brought to light the need for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and unleashed a public discussion on how organisations all around the world use our data. In such an eventful time, I started my career as an analytical consultant and got the opportunity to witness what happens behind the scenes with our data.

Collecting consumer data holds great appeal to companies as it helps them to understand consumer preferences; the most relevant channel of communication and how best to anticipate consumer needs. This enables them to make consumers happy by offering highly-customised products and services. I witnessed this when helping our clients kickstart their analytics journey; we have to give equal importance to all the factors such as the value from data, the privacy challenges and secure data storage. It can’t be stressed enough that data used for analysis does not contain any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and must be stored in the safest possible manner. On top of this, the analysts and data scientist handling data undergo data privacy and security training. Data privacy is not a subject that is treated lightly.

But when one starts venturing into this area, mere good intentions cannot suffice. Challenges around privacy concerns and data usage restrictions have to be addressed. I have seen that companies are highly-invested in preventing security breaches, mainly because it damages the customer-client relationship, making it very hard to win back the trust of the consumer and could also result in fines of millions of pounds.

I am not here to defend the actions of those who use data as a tool for intrusion, but I am here to say that like every disruptive element that has touched our lives such as the internet and computers, data analytics has its own pros and cons. For example, we have been working in partnership with Stop the Traffik, a charity based in the UK which works to prevent human trafficking by the use of data. We are supporting STT in two areas: (1) Improving marketing effectiveness; and (2) highlighting trends in human trafficking, all using data. Our work was recently recognised at the DataIQ Awards, where we won in the Data Enabler category.

To conclude, the opportunity to work as an analytical consultant and handle customer data has taught me that insights from such a data set can be invaluable both for clients and consumers. Therefore, what remains is to make sure there is transparency when collecting and storing data. As a consumer, one should know that from a legal point of view, you have a choice to opt-out or be forgotten. Since the use of customer data holds a treasure of competitive advantages to marketers, the negative elements need to be mitigated to make room for optimising the good.


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