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With 2020 quickly coming to a close, predictions around what 2021 will look like are running rife. And while no one could have predicted the events of 2020, the dramatic year that we have had is expected to continue to shape the year ahead.

When it comes to data, the major predictions for data revolve around the types of data businesses collect, the way in which governments regulate how businesses use data and a growing preference towards ethical data collection.  

Prediction #1: Increased government scrutiny

Forrester recently predicted the regulatory and legal activity related to employee data to double in 2021, owing in part to the continuation of remote work from 2020. The increased legal scrutiny around data will not be limited to workplaces, however.

In Australia, 2021 is shaping up to be the most important year ever in terms of data regulation. The Attorney-General’s Department has recently opened a review into Australia’s current Privacy Act. This review promises to consider important issues such as personal information and current exemptions to the Privacy Act.

The review follows the 2019 Digital Platforms Inquiry, which recommended the review be undertaken to better consider how consumers use digital platforms. It also follows the introduction of the European Union’s GDPR in 2018, which is expected to continue to hold businesses liable for improper use of data in 2021 and beyond. This will make privacy by-design a must for any business looking to utilise customer data.

Prediction #2: A shift in the type of data that is collected

There will also be a continued shift away from data collected by third party cookies in 2021. Back in January – when the term ‘coronavirus’ was starting to be thrown around – Google revealed its plans to deprecate third party cookies on Chrome. This jump started the race for businesses and advertisers to find new ways to collect actionable data. Offline data is the current frontrunner, with a particular premium on genuine purchase transactions that can be aggregated to an extent that balances consumer privacy.

While first party data has been an essential part of data strategies in recent times, zero party data could very well have its moment in 2021. Zero party is data that is owned by the customer that is proactively shared with a brand. It is not data that is ever sold or transacted, rather, it is all about improving customer experiences through self reporting. This might include preference data or purchase intentions. The difference between first party data and zero party data is that while an organisation technically owns its customer’s first party data, they do not own zero party data.

The rise of zero party data will come as customers continue to demand better experiences and expect brands to manage their data in an ethical and compliant way. Businesses should start thinking of ways to collect this zero party data to be prepared for this coming change.

Prediction #3: It’s all about ethical data

Ethical data will also continue its rise in 2021. The Harvard Business Review recently tipped ethical data to start impacting the job market. Roles such as data ethicist and chief data ethics officer are already appearing.

Given the importance of ethical data sharing, we can expect to see the continued rise of ‘Open Data’ – data that is freely used, reused and redistributed – and associated practices. In Australia, Open Banking is developing momentum as a result of Scott Farrell’s far-sighted and wide reaching review of the subject. 

This primes Australia to have economy wide data sharing practices, all created with a view to creating better choice and opportunities for consumers. Consumers now have the statutory option to request flows of data between companies in the same or event different industry. 

Here at smrtr, as we move towards 2021, we will keep an eye out for how these looming changes impact how we do business. We are well aware of the shifting privacy landscape and have worked to ensure all of our solutions are compliant and ethical. Additionally, our product development is already balancing these ever changing requirements and considers how zero, first, second and third party data can be best combined to achieve an optimal outcome.

 By Steven Millward, General Manager – Commercial at smrtr