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Privacy and Innovation Combined in Information Governance

Today’s biggest US tech companies – historically known for their innovation, pragmatism, and willingness to adapt – are by and large failing to comply with privacy laws forth by GDPR. European companies who have been more prudent in their use of personal data (though at the cost of innovation) have now seen their efforts rewarded in the form of increased levels of customer trust and regulatory compliance.

The late 20th century technological revolution in the US gave birth to the internet and personal computer, paving a path for 21st century innovation in personal devices, apps, and social media – with Silicon Valley giants leading the way towards a more connected future. Advancements in location-based services, facial recognition, biometrics, genome analysis, social data, cloud-based platforms, and others helped create a culture of sometimes intrusive innovation.  The ability to collect and correlate personal data from hundreds of sources made many organizations custodians of an immense volume of detailed personal data, much of it loosely managed.

These data-driven innovations have been transformative and largely beneficial…but they have also led to a steady loss of personal privacy. In recent years backlash over these privacy impacts has reached a fever pitch as data subjects realized through highly publicized cases that their personal information was being harvested and manipulated without their consent. As a result, waves of regulation are requiring organizations to re-think how their sensitive data is managed to better accommodate privacy concerns.  This growing awareness has come later to the US than to Europe, but even in North America, companies increasingly understand that failure to adapt to the new privacy climate will mean a loss of reputation and heavy fines.

What can each side of the Atlantic learn from the other?

While the US market has thrived on sometimes frantic innovation, it is belatedly learning from Europe to take a more measured, cautious approach to technology advancement. Europe has cultivated a culture that values privacy above all, with long-standing laws that dictate how private information can be gathered and used (including the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive 2002). European organizations view the disclosure of private information as a reputational risk, and adamantly protect their information. This long-standing tradition of privacy protection is evident in their most recent regulation, GDPR. US organizations are learning the art of prudence from their European counterparts: To think twice about how an innovation affects not only the organization’s agility or bottom line, but also its ability to be a good steward of sensitive data.

Europeans are learning that increased regulation doesn’t have to be the end of innovation, and innovation doesn’t have to come at the cost of personal privacy.  While the rest of the world catches up in their privacy protection efforts, Europe has developed a new pragmatic view on innovation previously stifled by privacy concerns. With the US market still struggling to achieve full compliance, European counterparts are recovering their innovation edge with this newfound pragmatism. Now, both privacy and innovation will benefit from Europe and North America “meeting in the middle”.

In this current business environment, US and European organizations understand that gaining tighter control of sensitive information across their enterprise is paramount to compliant, trustworthy operation. For three decades Everteam has designed software that discovers, manages, optimizes and protects sensitive information, helping organizations to remain compliant while allowing trailblazers to freely innovate. For more information on how gaining control of your information can propel innovation, contact Everteam today.