Pearce added that companies needed to be extra cautious about using customers data.
“Conversations are changing to ‘data ethics breaches’. You haven’t technically breached the privacy laws but the public sentiment, the pub test says you’ve failed,” he said.
“You have to take an outside in view. We might think we’re doing something that’s completely aligned with the purpose of the data, its collection and use, but if the general public says no that’s not the case, then you’re in trouble,” Pearce added.
Companies are allowed to collect personal information about their customers, but “only where it is reasonably necessary for, or directly related to, the organisation’s functions or activities,” and with their consent, as per the Privacy Act 1988 and Australian Privacy Principles.
Going beyond the legal necessities is crucial to winning and maintaining customers’ trust, the panelists agreed.
“It’s about informed consent. Not a 17 page two-point font document that you ask customers to agree to once a year. It’s really being clear and contextual,” Moore said.
“As custodians of data having that ongoing dialog with customers is going to become more and more important as people are fine for that use but not fine for that use. Being much more granular about getting consent for specific use cases,” she added.
And when a customer says no, Moore said, “we absolutely have to respect that”.
At present, not many companies in Australia and New Zealand had quite figured this out, said Crosby.
I would say there’s a lot of talk and not enough walk. Businesses are still working in old marketing games of static rules and blanket approvals. We need to get away from that,” she explained.
Human centred design
One of the best ways to ensure customers were on side with their data being used to improve services is to involve them in the design process.
Human-centred design is a well-established approach to systems development that aims to make systems usable and useful by focusing on the users, their needs and requirements.
“Getting the customer involved right at the beginning of these pieces is so important,” Pearce said. “We’ve embraced human centred design.”
Telstra and Bank of New Zealand had also adopted the approach to new services and features.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” said Pearce. “You have to get that balance right. We are the custodians of the data. Privacy is not something that should constrain you. If you want to do great things you’ve got to do it in an ethical way.”