Sunday, March 11, 2012


Many Kenyan organizations are collecting and storing significant amounts of consumers’ personal data. Sectors such as banking, retail (supermarkets), hotels, utilities, hospitals and many others keep depositories of your personal data. Consumer data is extremely valuable to these organizations. Researchers, law enforcement agencies, credit reference bureaus, marketers and business competitors also value consumer data.

The digital footprint you leave in various companies can be stolen and used for financial gain. As a consumer you would want to know when your data is being collected, what is stored and by whom, and how your data is being used.

What you might not have known is that the global consumer data market is huge. In the United States alone, organizations spend more than $2 billion per year purchasing consumer data from data sellers.

Buyers of consumer data are mainly marketers who use this data to better understand and predict consumer needs. Their main objectives are to improve their marketing effectiveness and to increase consumer loyalty to certain brands.

Kenyan consumers are unfortunately not aware that their data is a valuable inventory. Consumer data protection and regulation on the other hand is non-existent. Consumer advocacy groups are lobbying but with minimal progress. It is therefore left to you, the consumer, to protect your data.

There are five fundamentals you should ask any data collector you interact with. The first is Economy. You should request the data collector to justify the value they gain if they share your data. The second fundamental is Portability. You should demand that the company provides you with a copy of your data held by the organization.

The third is Transparency. You should demand that the data collector tells you what consumer data they have about you and what they will do with it. The fourth fundamental is Security. It is your responsibility to ascertain whether your data is protected by technology and adequate governance policies. The fifth and final fundamental is Privacy which requires the data collector to respect your personal data and justify why you should trust them.

These fundamentals transfer data security from IT professionals to you. It is no longer enough just to check the “agree” button so that you can get on with your bank account opening or property purchase.

As electronic commerce and internet connectivity gains ground in Kenya, the market for data will become more lucrative. This will definitely be the new cybercrime frontier.

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