While consumers are voicing their concern over the use of data for which they give – or do not give – their consent, French company bosses appear to be aware of the confidentiality issue and would be in favour of tighter regulation.

Personal Data: French Bosses Favour Responsible, Properly Regulated Use

Now that the pressure to achieve short-term profitability is higher than ever before, selling customer information would seem a way for companies to garner windfall revenues. However, French company top management is not generally inclined to go this route, as they are conscious of the strategic value of the data, indicates a survey conducted by the French public opinion survey specialist IFOP on behalf of the Makazi Group (formerly LeadMedia). The report reveals that that 81% of the company heads polled see the legal risks associated with using personal data as very high. Most firms would therefore be in favour of developing ‘best practice’ rules which will enable them to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the personal information they hold. Company bosses also expressed concern over reputational risk.


Legal framework accepted but not all that well understood


While 47% of the respondents stated that they knew the legal framework governing use of personal data “fairly well”, two out of five admitted there were gaps in their knowledge in this area.  It also emerged that the company bosses would in general not be unfavourable to the idea of tightening up the regulatory framework.  In fact only 22% of those surveyed felt that the emphasis placed on the confidentiality and anonymity of personal data was excessive. The only area where the bosses really raised objections was to do with the administrative burden of complying with the rules.  Some 46% of the company heads said the issue they primarily associate with use of customer data is ‘ethics’, while 30% mentioned ‘transparency’.  Given the importance of these considerations, 77% of the respondents do not see the current regulations as too strict. However, the companies’ apparent ‘civic conscience’ is not entirely altruistic. Company performance may well depend on this data being used in a proper manner. Pierre Berendes, Digital Marketing & E-commerce Manager at Orange Switzerland, sees it as “unthinkable to sell customer data on to third parties”, as there is a “real feeling that this information should be kept under lock and key.”


Civic conscience does not prevent firms exploiting data value


The second main aspect which springs to the minds of company bosses when they hear the words ‘personal data’ has to do with its commercial potential, 32% associating the words with ‘opportunity’ and 22% with ‘innovation’. In addition, 84% of the company heads polled see the use of such data as an opportunity to win over new customers and 83% as a way to cement customer loyalty, while 87% said that proper use of this data could help boost company value. Use of the data is also regarded as a potential driver for growth and performance, enabling a firm to differentiate itself from its competitors or generally promote the company. Explained Quentin Poizat, e-Commerce Director at travel insurance, assistance and personal services firm Mondial Assistance: “Our ambition is to build up our data assets. We want to target our customers appropriately and avoid turning them off.”

By Pierre-Marie Mateo