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Trust issue looms large for tech companies capitalizing on personal data

Marc Ferranti | March 7, 2014
Privacy issues may cause a stumbling block for companies capitalizing on a growing stream of user data.

Several industry executives called for tech vendors, telecom companies and politicians to work together to formulate policies to create a transparent global regulatory framework for how personal data can be exploited.

"We need a new arrangement between European regulation, local regulation and the global market" as well as harmonization of data protection laws across Europe, said Deutsche Telekom's Hottges. In Germany, operators are not allowed to analyze big data "so all of our private data is going out of the country, being analyzed" by U.S. companies and being sold back to Europeans, Hottges said.

Alcatel-Lucent's Combes agreed that a multiple-stakeholder approach is needed.

"It's clear that if we want to tackle this issue it can't be tackled by just one entity in the value chain," Combes said. "It's something which has to be tackled by all the protagonists together, from the governments to the regulators to the service providers to the vendors -- we need to be clear on how we empower users in order for them to protect their privacy."

Many industry insiders, however, doubt that government regulations will keep up with the speed of change in technology.

"I think technology will be ahead of governments," said Bob Sell, chief executive of Accenture's Communications, Media & Technology operating group.

Whether or not private industry works with governments to build a more coherent international regulatory data privacy regime, it's clear that the issue of trust has come to the fore for a tech industry that wants to capitalize on a continually growing stream of personal data.

As Combes noted: "My major concern is to rebuild trust in the digital infrastructure."

 

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