Getting Data Protection Right As Cambridge Analytica Scandal is a Stark Reminder of the Fragility of Consumer Trust


The data industry is used to its fair share of media and consumer scrutiny. However, the latest scandal will irrevocably damage consumer perception and it will take a long time to recover – if ever.

In the past the use of profiling was an acceptable form of marketing and it largely flew under the radar. This all changed after the Olive Cooke tragedy in 2015 which resulted in a complete overhaul of fundraising with the ICO issuing a significant number of large fines to charities for ‘unfair’ usage of donor data.

In data processing terms Cambridge Analytica has done nothing out of the ordinary – it has collected data and then analysed it in order to generate insights that enabled it to better ‘target’ US voters. The problem is that the Facebook users that took the quiz at the centre of the scandal had no idea of its true purpose. Moreover profiling to influence the result of an election seems much more immoral and devious than profiling to boost sales or increase charity donations. Its unsurprising therefore that this story is continuing to run and run.

Data organisations have long tried to keep their processes and procedures under wraps. Not because they are questionable but because it is so easy to twist them until they seem corrupt. This has led to a culture of secrecy and concealment. No wonder, therefore, that when the spotlight is turned on the industry looks shifty. The bottom line is, with the advent of GDPR, which is now less than two months away, the attitude of the industry has got to change. No more mystery, but openness.  Consumers have the right to know what happens to their data and if they are happy for it to be used in profiling they have to give their permission.  Our approach that GDPR stands for “Get Data Protection Right” has to be embraced by every company or face the consequences.