Letizia Affinito, Author


COVID pandemic is urging the world about having high-quality data at the right time to track and measure virus spread.
Indeed, containing and managing the COVID pandemic with contact-tracing apps may be very challenging when a data privacy strategy is not set up and effectively implemented from the very start.

Best practices show that, no matter the level of people engagement, the best way to get people to adopt COVID-19 contact-tracing apps and share valuable data is “earning their trust”.

There are two main levers for capturing quality data while minimizing the risk of consumer backlash:

Transparency: Individuals do not always have a complete understanding of where their data goes, how it is used, and how it impacts their lives. Organizations should be candid about how consumer data is being stored, used and what value is being created — for the firm, the public institutions and for the users.

Dialogue: Users and firms usually have different ideas of what constitutes a reasonable use of data. One way to maintain customer trust is to be honest and open about those differences and then engage consumers in conversations about data tradeoffs.

So how do we get our data story straight so that our users know where we stand? Instead of talking about how we could use data, let’s start talking about how we should use data, keeping users’ potential reactions into account . It is not always possible to know how users will react, but here are four points to consider:

Gut check your data uses: If users knew how you are planning to use their data, would they cringe?
Provide value to users. As users, we are making tradeoffs with our data; for example, we sometimes reveal our purchasing habits in exchange for loyalty rewards. Explicitly acknowledge this exchange of value and make it tangible for the user.

Tell stories that make data uses concrete: It’s important to tell stories about how users will benefit from the use and elaboration of their data.

Open a dialogue about norms: Cultural and expectations differences exist between people. So, listen to your users about their expectations. This goes beyond privacy policies.

Forward-looking companies are incorporating data privacy and communication considerations from the start, following three principles [1]:

Teach your customers: Users cannot trust you if they do not understand what you’re up to.

Give them control: Users will proactively engage if they see all their data and control on how much data goes to whom.

Deliver in-kind value: The firm should give users value in return.

Best practices show that by following the above tips and levers, users are likely to become more comfortable sharing additional valuable data in a very rapid ramp-up. And this is what we need now!

[1] Sara M. Watson (2014), If Customers Knew How You Use Their Data, Would They Call It Creepy? Harvard Business Review, April 29, 2014. Available at https://hbr.org/2014/04/if-customers-knew-how-you-use-their-data-would-they-call-it-creepy

[2] Timothy Morey , Theodore “Theo” Forbath and Allison Schoop (2015), Customer Data: Designing for Transparency and Trust, Harvard Business Review, May 2015 Issue. Available at https://hbr.org/2015/05/customer-data-designing-for-transparency-and-trust