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In data we trust: mobile operators sense opportunity in the wake of NSA-gate

Here’s the premise. Both consumers and companies are uneasy about who’s holding what data on them and what they may do with it. That’s in part because of the Edward Snowden revelations of mass surveillance of electronic communications by the US security apparatus, which gave the public an inkling of what COULD be done given the right technology and the right motivation. And it’s part a long-term unease fuelled by the obvious data collection proficiency of the likes of Facebook and Google, who seem to know what we want before we do.

According to Ovum, which has been doing a bit of work in this area, the public understands “that businesses are clearly increasing their knowledge of users’ willingness to pay, leading to an increased risk of ‘creeping’ first-degree price discrimination.” Or, in layperson’s terms, the buggers have enough on us to get us to pay more for things than we want to.”

Yes they do.

So Ovum suggests there’s a trust void out there. What Big Data needs is Big trust, it says. Big Trust is the “missing DNA, the essential material for capturing ‘hearts & minds’ amongst the ‘shock & awe’ of Big Data power.

“Big Trust principles recognise users’ ownership of their own data, aims to give them greater transparency and control over it, and puts people before analytics,” explains Mark Little, principal analyst at Ovum. “This becomes a foundation for new trust-based services such as personal data vaults that enable the repatriation of data from companies and government agencies. Customers get to see what ‘they’ve got on us’ and correct the data if it’s wrong. Customer control, verification and curation of their own data increases its quality making it more valuable to industry and to the customers themselves.”

So, “by adopting a Big Trust approach telcos can expose new opportunities to strengthen their core services and develop new trust-based services with the potential to generate incremental revenues.”

Which sounded good until we got to “generate incremental revenues”, which is surely business as usual: ie using insights to extract more money from the customers. Anyone remember the old George Burns joke? “Sincerity - if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

Seriously though folks, the ‘trust’ concept is going to be its own big data at MWC. We’ve got more of it coming up too. Keep watching.

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