Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Thursday, January 18, 2018
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Consumers Ready to Push Back, GDPR Survey Warns 

Two thousand and eighteen is shaping up as the year of consumer pushback as strict data regulations give the generators of boundless data new rights to see and demand that companies erase personal data under pending European Union rules.

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect in May 2018, and market trackers like Gartner (NYSE: IT) predict more than half the effected companies won't be ready. Complicating their preparations is a rising tide of consumer backlash. According to a survey released this week by one of the many data governance vendors looking to cash in on the GDPR rules, nearly half of European consumers it polled viewed their new "right to access" as most significant.

The rules would give consumers the ability to see data stored by companies ranging from names, addresses, phone numbers and real-time locations to purchasing history and web browsing activity.

Enterprises are unprepared for the potential consumer onslaught, which also includes the right to demand that data collectors erase their personal data. "Saddled with sprawling legacy systems, most enterprises can’t adequately track how and where they store all this information across their siloed organizations," survey sponsor Pegasystems Inc. warned in releasing the survey results on Wednesday (Dec. 13).

As a result, "global businesses are scrambling to re-architect their IT infrastructure to prepare for an onslaught of GDPR inquiries."

The customer engagement software company (NASDAQ: PEGA) based in Cambridge, Mass., said it polled more than 7,000 consumers in seven EU countries. The survey found that European consumers are "overwhelmingly interested in querying companies that hold their personal information." Eighty-nine percent said they want to see data stored by retailers and others, while 90 percent want "direct control over how companies use their data."

Those attitudes are expected to have a major impact of the data governance policies of large U.S. companies like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL), who will be required to store data on European customers locally.

Retailers like Amazon would likely be hardest hit by the new rules, that take effect on May 25, 2018, the Pegasystems survey found, with 45 percent of European consumers saying they worry most about how retailers use their data.

Based on the survey results, consumers appear to be increasingly fed up with the nearly instantaneous pop up ads pitching related products moments after a web search for a particular item. The survey also found that nearly half of respondents said they would exercise their rights under GDPR if personal data were sold or shared with other companies. Further down the list were telemarketing calls and receiving online pitches for unwanted products.

"Our study suggests that most consumers will be eager to flex their power to more tightly control the data businesses store on them,” Jeff Nicholson, Pegasystems' vice president of product marketing, noted in a statement.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 25 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as Executive Editor for Electronic Engineering Times.

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