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Opinion

Internet Privacy: A necessity, not a luxury

An aware customer-base demands and expects from businesses a proper and holistic consumer experience, which includes protection of privacy, explains Orna Kleinmann

Orna Kleinmann 11:3828.01.21
Knowledge is power, and even more so when it comes to knowledge and data about consumers, no matter what it is they consume. From the very beginning, tech giants, like Google and Amazon, understood this and built their business model accordingly. However, in recent years something has changed and that change has intensified over the past year. This year, in which governments around the world declared a state of emergency due to the increase in cyber attacks, following the outbreak of COVID-19, was also the year in which awareness to the importance of data protection spiked with the general public, regulators, governments and even the business sector. Consumer data is power, and protecting consumers' personal information provides businesses with even greater power, and also with a very high level of credibility.

 

Only recently, WhatsApp announced they would begin sharing information about user behavior on the app, with its parent company, Facebook. The controversy and public debate around this announcement highlights growing fears about data privacy. Many users abandoned WhatsApp after the messenger service changed its privacy policy. Worries that their data could end up with Facebook are driving them to competitors pushing superior data protection. Businesses need then to understand the power and insights that the new generation of consumers has acquired. Companies, and in particular tech and social network giants, need to understand the power and balance demanded by the new generation, between sharing information and protecting their privacy. While this is a formula that is redefined at every moment by us, the users, it can no longer be trampled or ignored. As recently exemplified with the immediate protest of millions of users that led to WhatsApp postponing the deadline for approving the new terms of use.
Orna Kleinmann, Managing Director SAP R&D Center in Israel & Senior Vice President at SAP Cloud Platform. Photo: Shay Yehezkel Orna Kleinmann, Managing Director SAP R&D Center in Israel & Senior Vice President at SAP Cloud Platform. Photo: Shay Yehezkel

 

Users complete waiver of their own personal data, and the perception that the user is only a product – these are no longer the reality. Today, businesses have begun to comprehend that their relationship with customers cannot be neatly summed up as another 'mailing address'. A mutual relationship is involved, which requires a new approach to the personal data that they possess about their customers. We are in the midst of an era in which the principled discourse is about control over consumers’ digital identity, the scale of the information that businesses hold, its storage and its use. This era created a need for new technological solutions and business models, aimed at data protection while providing added business value and maintaining growth.

 

The fact is that our data still circulates around the web and its use by companies, both large and small, is enormous. But the change in market perception and the expanding trend in the development of solutions designed to protect data can be easily indentified. Businesses are beginning to understand that they are dealing with a new type of consumers, more digital and involved, and with requirements and needs that are far more complex than buying a 'brand name'.

 

Today, the way to refer to the customer experience, is to include maintaining privacy and fair use of their personal information. This business understanding has brought to the table a growing number of startups that specialize in this field. We, at SAP, have been developing advanced solutions in this area for several years now, aimed at protecting consumers’ digital identity, for the benefit of the consumers and the businesses. The consumer, for his part, has already developed an indifference to the hundreds of targets and offers he receives every day, that is why we offer a platform that enables hyper-personalization: the consumer receives only what is relevant to them and at exactly the right moment.

 

Over the years, and as part of our broader strategy at SAP, which includes an organizational culture aimed at data security with an emphasis on customers, employees and innovative technology, we acquired Israeli company Gigya and more recently Emarsys, which has Israeli founders. Through a deep understanding of the importance of protecting the consumer's digital identity and their control over their own identities, and of course strictly adhering to laws and regulations, it is important to us at SAP, alongside all these, to continue expanding the customer's digital hyper-personal experience, adapted to the changing needs of the market. We see clearly that the market is changing course, and moving from companies that exist thanks to data about us, to companies that exist thorugh a genuine relationship with us, their customers.

 

And so, stepping into 2021, I see the growing chances for success in this direction. The market in its entirety must adopt this outlook and create appropriate business models for the new reality. Incorrect use of personal information, and an organizational culture that is not adjusted to protect customer privacy will only result in businesses harmed. Protecting privacy and complying with regulations represents an inextricable part of the fourth industrial revolution, digital transformation, and is essential for three main reasons: customers, brand and growth opportunities. An aware customer-base demands and expects from businesses a proper and holistic consumer experience, which includes protection of privacy. The company brand is linked in an integral way to the topic of user privacy, and any harm to it influences the brand directly. The growing need for solutions to protect privacy, increases the array of opportunities in the high-tech market and allows for a more transparent and fair means of growing revenues.

 

Orna Kleinmann, Managing Director SAP R&D Center in Israel & Senior Vice President at SAP Cloud Platform