The future of crime: brands need data-centric CEOs
A view from Tracey Follows

The future of crime: brands need data-centric CEOs

As consumers' lives become more entwined with technology, they, and brands, must become more protective, of their data, writes futurist Tracey Follows

More than 1bn passwords are already in the hands of criminals. But this type of crime is only going to get worse

The recent data breach at TalkTalk highlighted, once again, the issue of cybercrime, and the apparent ease with which it can be committed. Yet consumers don’t appear to be any more engaged with the problem, let alone the possible solutions, than they were a year or two ago.

The truth is that no one really wants to think about or discuss cybercrime; not only do consumers not seem to understand the breadth and depth of what is actually happening on the dark web, they don’t really want to sacrifice any of the free services they receive in exchange for their personal data – so they stick their heads in the sand and hope for the best.

Consumers are the victims

More than 1bn passwords are already in the hands of criminals. But this type of crime is only going to get worse. The latest forecast from Juniper estimates that cybercrime will cost businesses across the globe at least $2tn by 2019. And it seems that where once govern­ments were the main target, commercial companies are going to be the prey of such crimes more often. Ultimately, of course, it is consumers who are the victims, every single time.

Ultimately, of course, it is consumers who are the victims, every single time

TalkTalk had said, in one of its many PR appearances, that it had been the victim of a cyber-attack. But TalkTalk was not the victim; the victims were those consumers who had entrusted their data to the company – one that was increasingly looking like it was incompetent when it came to data management.

Knowledge gaps in th business

The fact that the chief executive didn’t know whether or not customer data was encrypted, highlighted the knowledge gaps in the corporation. Some companies know exactly what is happening to their users’ data, though. According to Marc Goodman, author of Future Crimes, Facebook has acknowledged that more than 600,000 accounts are compromised every single day. While it and other data-fuelled companies do what they can, they in no way guarantee any protection for consumers, because they waived all of those rights when they agreed to numerous and lengthy terms of service.

Looking after their customers’ data as if it were their own will be the first priority of that business

As Goodman points out, the trend is clear: "The more connected we are, the more vulnerable we are." So there will come a time when two things are very likely to change: if chief executives of the future and the brands they represent are really going to be customer-centric, they will need to be data-centric.

The data-centric CEO

Looking after their customers’ data as if it were their own will be the first priority of that business, thus the rise of a new, data-centric, CEO.

Additionally, consumers will have to take much more responsibility for their personal data. Currently in love with the frictionlessness of many an app or service online, they eagerly exchange more personal data than is probably necessary; such is the pull and promise of convenience. At many an airport, in exchange for free wi-fi one must give up one’s email address, phone number and birthdate. Is it really worth it? We are so used to acting out the role of the grateful recipient of these ‘free’ services that we overlook the dangers of referring to ourselves as users. I suggest we start to think of ourselves as ‘choosers’, not users – choosing to exchange our data with a brand that can look after it securely, not just using their service.

It is very possible that one day it will be ‘choosers’ who demand of the brand that it signs up to their terms and conditions, not the other way around.