The digital age has many conveniences, such as being able to do black Friday shopping from home, however it is not without its incumbent dangers. The security of one’s digital identity is under constant threat. While there are many new ways to combat this threat, many obstacles remain ahead for meaningful progress to be made. One of the largest is the collection of customer data. While it may be necessary with the current systems in play, it certainly creates issues on many fronts for personal identity safety.
It may seem surprising marketing would be an obstacle to reasonable level of security, however this presents a tremendous conundrum. Companies gather data from their customers whenever possible. This is a very wise thing to do from a marketing standpoint. To any company, learning who their customer is in and what their habits are is incredibly valuable for marketing purposes. The issue is a company then becomes the steward of that information. They have to store this information on their customers, and this of course becomes a cache of information that is a magnet for cyber thieves. A breach of a company’s database can be disastrous for a company and its customers.
Consider the common practice of grocery stores offering a rewards card that enables cardholders to receive sale prices if they register for the card. Their customers then swipe it at check out. This allows a grocery store to obtain the contact information, demographics of its customers, and track their buying habits. This arms the grocery chain with data that helps determine what to stock in what region and what to put on sale. It may even help them determine what local celebrities and organizations to partner with locally for their individual stores. The impact on their bottom line is considerable.
What does a company really need to be able to do business? The answer is not much from a transactional standpoint. They only really need a basic amount of protection for their goods an intellectual property, and an exchange of consideration (money in most cases). A grocery store using the above model could easily operate without it, which was the case for hundreds of years before the concept became prevalent. They will not easily give up this type of business advantage.
New technology is available that can help avoid some of the pitfalls of the data first type of systems currently in place. One solution includes the use of blockchain technology. Most people are familiar with the blockchain technology in regards to crypto currency such is Bitcoin. Blockchain is a public ledger of information that also can be linked to a cache of information. One company working hard in this real is Microsoft who is working to develop blockchain technology in this manner. It involves having a public key which can be used to verify basic information such as having a valid driver’s license and valid car insurance when renting a car. A private key would be needed to access the personal information of the customer such as the customer’s insurance information, however this would only be released in the case of an emergency situation such as the customer having a car accident, otherwise the information would not pass through to the company. The rental car company in this example could easily verify the information it actually needs, while being assured the sensitive data will become accessible should it be necessary. The would not need to store the sensitive information and thus limit their liability while protecting the information of their customer.
Gathering a customer data is a major frontier for cyber security as we move forward in this digital age. There is plenty of new technology to help combat the risks involved, however it won’t be easy for companies to embrace the necessary changes. The information they eagerly gather is quite valuable, however it may not the worth the risks involved to company or customer.
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