GDPR: behind the regulation lies an opportunity for businesses

The general data protection regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May 2018. This legislation enables individuals to take back control over their personal data. Businesses will have to implement compliance measures. Some businesses, therefore, consider it to be above all else a constraint. So, what if these new obligations were actually an opportunity?

This new regulation will form a true foundation for trust.

For citizens, the entry into force of the general data protection regulation (GDPR) is synonymous with new rights. It reinforces the control that each of us has over the data we share with businesses. For the latter, this regulation imposes a duty of compliance. “It’s true: GDPR will require significant investment. Not only do we have to implement changes in terms of processes and IT, but raising awareness amongst our employees is also an essential aspect of this,” states Ludovic Lévy, Vice President, Group Data Strategy & Governance at Orange. For some groups, like Orange, these changes will cost tens of millions of euros. However, for Ludovic Lévy, who sees GDPR as a reform that is “not only necessary, but absolutely essential”, these investments represent above all else, an opportunity that will generate value. He sees four reasons why the legislation could prove beneficial for businesses.

Restoring confidence

According to the 18th annual opinion poll published by Edelman, in 2018 only 43% of French people had confidence in companies, compared to 50% the previous year. “This is not the only study to indicate a widespread crisis of confidence, especially when it comes to companies’ ability to use their customers’ personal data responsibly,” Ludovic Lévy stresses. In his view, by giving citizens new rights that will enable them to better understand and control the use that is made of their data, the GDPR will counter this wave of mistrust. “Indeed, this new regulation will form a true foundation for trust. This is extremely beneficial to companies: customer confidence is essential to the development of all the innovations made possibly by big data, artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things.”

Enhanced understanding of our customers

Among the various instructions in the regulation, the GDPR requires businesses to improve the way in which they document what data they have. A constraint? On the contrary: according to Ludovic Lévy, implementing genuine data governance is an opportunity for companies to better understand their customers: “this legislation will enable each employee to know precisely what data sources are available to them, to access them more easily and to rely on proper documentation about them. And all this will be rapid and relevant,” he explains. Data governance will, therefore, be a formidable accelerator for the promotion of innovation, the improvement of customised services and the creation of value.

Focusing on the portability of data

Among the new consumer rights introduced by the GDPR is the right to portability. This means that anyone can obtain a set of their data in an open and legible format. They can then store it or transfer it from one information system to another. “Once they have it, any user may decide to transfer their data to a stakeholder for the purposes of that stakeholder enhancing the services they offer to the user. Let’s take the example of Djingo, Orange’s virtual personal assistant. Its original version will offer relatively basic features in terms of searches or controlling devices. In the future, though, thanks to data portability, Djingo may be able to make more targeted, more intelligent recommendations,” suggests Ludovic Lévy. This suggests that a multitude of new stakeholders will emerge, who will be able to capitalise on this new right by offering new services based on the management and processing of personal data.

The virtues of a level playing field

Finally, the purpose of the GDPR reform is to level out the competition between European and international actors. The regulation will apply equally to all businesses handling the data of European citizens, regardless of the country in which their head office is located. Ludovic Lévy considers that “this legislation genuinely creates a level playing field. From now on, companies will be subject to the same obligations and the same penalties, whether they operate from the United States, France or China. This equality before the law is a major step forward.

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