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November 12, 2012
Big Data, Big Banks: Big Security Issue?
 
With President Obama’s data-mining team receiving so much (and deserved) credit for his re-election, the use of micro-targeting may just start receiving the “sexy” tag. Amazing; data being described as sexy.
 
So, are you tired of hearing about “Big Data” yet? I hope not, because it’s only getting bigger. And bigger.  And it’s already pretty big.
 
Big Data — REALLY Big
According to IBM, 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years. And every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data. Sounds like there’s plenty of information out there for brands to craft targeted, highly relevant communications — doesn’t it?
 
Well, maybe not. One in three business leaders don’t trust the information they use to make decisions, again according to IBM. And if an almost inconceivable amount of data isn’t good enough…well, you get the idea.
 
And here’s another idea: If security already is a concern for consumers, what happens when even more data — especially personal, financial data — is generated? That concern may get even bigger, so the use of additional data means banks have an additional responsibility to safeguard that data ever more closely.
 
A “Sketchy” Data Deal
The current privacy procedures banks employ seem to be giving consumers a “sketchy deal,” to use a recent Obama-ism. Data breaches occur with staggering frequency; according to Business News Daily, 51% of companies in a recent survey stated that they had at least one security breach.
 
Even non-banking companies are guilty; Barnes & Noble reported on October 24 a data breach affecting credit-card customers at 63 stores across the country. Perhaps more troubling: The problem may be getting worse, as the New York Times reported. “Attacks on point-of-sale systems are growing exponentially,” said Tom Kellermann, a vice president at the security company Trend Micro, because encryption no longer provides a deterrent for skilled hackers.
 
Yikes.
 
Consumers don’t trust banks, especially the biggest banks, whose inconsistent safeguarding of customer data lessens that trust even further. The Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index found that trust in national banks fell to 23% in June 2012, down from 25% one quarter prior. Local banks fared a bit better, earning the trust of 55% in the Index. To reverse the trust decline, the giant banks may need to adapt the more personal service orientation that local banks provide.

Who Benefits?
Banks benefit by turning Big Data into strategic and competitive advantages.  But do consumers benefit? The banks will say yes, that more data helps them “surprise and delight” their customers with more useful products and services. But if you Google “consumers benefit big data” you’ll see infinitely more listings that lead with big data’s business benefits.
 
Perhaps the one major benefit for consumers is the increased scrutiny Big Data is bringing to banks and other organizations. With that increased scrutiny comes—perhaps—an increased awareness, both by banks and their customers, of the need for security systems as robust as the analytics platforms that crunch the big data in the first place.  Perhaps. For now, every time you hear “Big Data,” remember this: It’s not just data, it’s your data.
 
Yikes indeed.

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Robert Calvanico is Client Services Director for Living Group, a London-based integrated digital and branding agency. He leads the Living team's New York office. Robert has held management positions at agencies such as Euro RSCG, Cossette Post and Blue Fountain. He is a passionate sports fan and music lover, and lives in Tribeca, New York City.
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