2020 brought a whirlwind of technological focuses. From remote work to big tech compliance, data is at the center of these societal shifts. While many of these data concerns predated COVID-19, the pandemic has exposed and heightened the weakest points of data governance. Now, enhancing data transparency is the way forward in 2021.
A Lack of Data Transparency
When it comes to the United States, it’s a necessity to bring the information to the customers and residents. When this process fails or isn’t in place to begin with, there’s a lack of clarity, which leads to a range of issues. Since the U.S. doesn’t have a federal overarching cybersecurity compliance law, it’s up to each state to make its regulations.
Identity theft, fraud, leaked or corrupted data — a lack of data transparency is at the root of these issues. As of now, each state will have to make sure businesses comply. For instance, financial services require strict data governance. With new technology, fintech startups are popping up, providing new ways to bank virtually, contact-free.
These roughly 12,000 fintech companies are competing with long-standing banks and institutions. They’ll each need to comply with their states’ laws to protect client data. Without proper transparency, you won’t know what potential threats your data faces.
At the beginning of 2020, the financial service Fifth Third ran into consumer backlash after a data breach caused potential misuse of client information. The bank wasn’t as transparent with the details as it should’ve been, which only led to more frustration and legal issues.
While financial services are finding their way around new tech and compliance rules, they’re only one example of how data needs better governance. Primarily, the pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of U.S. data transparency. Amidst the shift to remote work, telehealth services, and the vaccine rollouts, everything now needs data to operate efficiently.
Telehealth and working from home both entail transferring data back and forth on a daily basis. Businesses and health care organizations need to explain clearly what they do with patient, employee, and customer data. If not, they may run into legal trouble.
For the vaccine itself, though, data is the number one driving factor. Government agencies rely on the numbers to know what to tighten or loosen restrictions in tandem with increasing or decreasing hospital statistics. Without this communication, transparency fails. As the state loosens restrictions, the California government has been withholding data about COVID-19 trends and fluctuations.
This lack of transparency causes public mistrust of the government and can even fuel the issue of misinformation in the States. The government must address both these topics to stop the virus, specifically with mass vaccinations.
Data governance controls which numbers you get to see about the virus. With better transparency, businesses and individuals could see the majority of these stats. For vaccines, though, everyone must be on the same page to achieve herd immunity. To do so, governments and health care organizations need to keep transparent records of immunizations.
How the government handles its own transparency is one issue. How it regulates businesses is another obstacle. Often making headlines, big tech companies have controversial histories with data handling and transparency. Specifically, Facebook has faced legal action over its data practices. Without an overarching federal law, it’s harder for the U.S. government to regulate the social media giant.
In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is what the U.S. lacks — a federal law for data and cybersecurity compliance. It’s also what Facebook has run into several issues with. After some back and forth lawsuits and legal action, Facebook announced it shut down some messaging features for European users to comply with the nation’s data transparency and protection rules.
It seems as though putting government pressure on big tech companies ultimately works. Apple recently announced its App Tracking Transparency update — where you can give permission to apps to use your data and see what they use it for exactly. Facebook began its Access Your Information function, letting you see how it uses your data for topics like ads, preferences, and security.
To continue data transparency progress like these two changes, governments must hone in on compliance and honesty.
A New Data Transparency Landscape
2021 is the year that data compliance becomes a primary focus. Data is necessary for two of the most relevant topics of today — technology and the pandemic. Through health care, finances, and big tech, data is at the center. For better transparency, the solution is clear. Governments bear the responsibility of regulating business data and being direct with the people.
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Shannon Flynn is a tech writer and Managing Editor for ReHack.com. She covers topics in biztech, IoT, and entertainment. Visit ReHack.com or follow ReHack on Twitter or to see more of Shannon’s posts.