Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Threat to Trust

By Peter de Jager

How much personal information do associations collect from their members? How well do they safeguard it from prying eyes and accidental loss? As associations seek ways to increase the value proposition as a way of either retaining, or increasing membership, the pressure to use data mining technologies will increase. That increase in data collection, storage and analysis will bring with it an unwanted guest; a significant threat to the trust that members have placed in the hands of their associations.

Reasonable and responsible predictions of the future are never pulled from thin air; they are constructed from the threads of headlines, the rumors of change and the soft whispers of weak signals. Because of this, sometimes we perceive predictions as nothing more than restatements of the obvious. Other times, the predictions push the boundaries of our expectations. We’re forced to ask ourselves, “Does this prognostication make sense? And if so, what will be the impact on our organizations and our lives?” Then of course there’s the very personal question, “What should we do to in response to this turn of events?”

The Global Future Forum ( sponsored a survey, which highlighted so trends driving society towards a crisis in Trust. They invited 286 respondents, comprised of Futurists (81), Academics (40) and Business Practitioners (166), to comment on a variety of business and social future scenarios.

When asked to estimate the possibility that “The use of consumer information and advanced technology will allow products and services to be dynamically priced and tailored to individual consumer requirements.” 86% of the Business Practitioners, 93% of the Academics and 97% of the Futurists thought this to be likely or very likely to occur over the next five years.

Their responses were generated by the following knowledge;
1) Most markets are saturated with fierce competitors, each seeking a competitive advantage. The respondents recognize that the products and services offered by mature providers eventually become commodities in the consumer’s minds. With the possible exception of the stabilizing force of brand loyalty, it doesn’t matter to the consumer which service they purchase, provided cost and quality are comparable.
2) Technology continues to advance in two key areas, data collection and storage. We can not only collect every bit of information about every customer and all their transactions, we can store it more cheaply and use it to create individualized products faster than ever before.

Within the world of associations, these trends might (we’re speculating here) combine to create the following thought process; Our membership issues might be solvable if we knew more about our members and did more to tailor our services to meet individual needs. The downside is that consumers (that includes Assn members) are beginning to consider this information both personal and confidential, and are slowly coming to realize that their data has an intrinsic value. A value they consider worth protecting from indiscriminate distribution and exposure.

When asked if it was likely or very likely that “Concerns about privacy mean that more and more people refuse to share information with suppliers”

The “Likely” and “Very Likely” responses tallied as follows, 65% Business Practitioners, 60% Academics and 64% Futurists.

Combine this growing awareness of the value of their data with recent headlines regarding data loss, and there should be no question that privacy concerns are on the rise, (or at least becoming more visible), consider this handful of news stories and many others that we have seen like them.
1) Bank of America Corp. loses personal information of approximately 1.2 million federal employees.
2) A tape containing personal data on 600,000 current and former Time
Warner employees is lost or stolen.
3) A laptop containing the personal information of approximately 100,000 University of California alumni, graduate students and applicants was stolen.
4) LexisNexis admits that the personal records of 310,000 individuals may have been stolen by criminals.
5) The U.S. online broker Ameritrade admits that account information of up to 200,000 customers may have been lost.

As associations increase their attempts to collect more and more data from their membership, the question arises, or rather it should arise. How adept are they at preventing themselves from appearing on a future version of this list? What will be the cost to their reputation when a membership list is exposed, lost or stolen?

How secure is your member data from accidental loss? Would your members agree that is good enough?

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