Companies worldwide desperately need to know their customer. They need fundamental human insights about consumers in order to design innovative products and services that fuel desire, which leads to sales. Companies also need precise data from and about consumers to perfectly target marketing and sales activities. Now companies face an arms race in growing demand for consumer data as the world becomes more interconnected and new competitors emerge. This is why data brokerage became a 250 billion USD per year business. The data brokerage industry grew 13.5% in the past 4 years and is expected to grow at the same rate during the next years.
Data brokers operate inconspicuously behind a veil of secrecy and a good number are evidently stealing personal data, and packaging and reselling it as a commodity to companies worldwide. By doing so data brokers are violating consumers’ data privacy and not even compensating consumers.
Consumers worldwide are becoming increasingly aware of these violations and have begun to actively protect their data privacy. An ensuing cat-and-mouse game where, for example, consumers block their web browsing cookies may be answered by surreptitious gathering of IP addresses, and so on. This is only one simple and innocuous example. Smarter users and new privacy laws are making it harder for data brokers to access good quality personal data for resale to companies. As a result, data brokers may engage in much more sophisticated or veiled methods that can cross to line into questionable practices.
In sum, the current system is opaque and uncontrollable; consumers’ privacy is violated; and companies hardly get enough quality data to meet their market research requirements.
This already leads to fail investments in the double-digit billions. In addition, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union becomes enforceable from 25 May 2018 and will make it even more complicated for data brokers to access personal data. It seems like we are in an accelerating downward spiral with no way to stop or reverse the trend.