Apr 14, 2017

Verimatrix hosted a stimulating and insightful event on data privacy ahead of the recent TV Connect show in London, where an industry panel was able to thrash out the issues of personal data governance freely under the “Chatham House” rules that prohibit direct reporting.

What made it interesting was the emphasis given to the ethical rather than just regulatory and technical dimensions of data stewardship. The take home message was the apparent paradox that operators will gain access to more valuable information if they uphold strongly the privacy of their customers’ personal data. By gaining customers’ trust, while also offering something tangible in return, operators are more likely to obtain opt-ins to collect and analyze personal data of various kinds, from behavior, to viewing preferences, to location when accessing services on the road.

Among the big Internet players Apple has made this consumer-centric, good data steward approach a differentiator, where elsewhere the reality may not always match the rhetoric. It was Apple that coined the term “differential privacy” to describe this paradox of trying to obtain the most possible total information for the least individual data. This same term also describes the idea of proving mathematically that a given form of data analysis or algorithm, going far beyond basic anonymization, cannot reveal anything about an individual.

This idea is something of a red herring, like the concept of mathematically provable security in general, given that as we all know the weak link of most systems is of human origin, lurking somewhere within processes and governance.

The event preceding TV Connect, entitled "Becoming a data champion - what media companies need to know," did highlight that aspect, suggesting service providers should focus even more on the governance model that controls how they handle data internally than on how they protect against individual attacks from outside.

They should ensure that all staff and contractors are fully aware of their good data stewardship strategy and the promises made by which the organization is bound both to regulators and especially the subscribers whose permission they have sought. This should come even before consideration of exposure to hacking.

It is also true that as an operator gains more valuable personal data through earning the trust of its customers, it becomes increasingly exposed to the oversights or abuses it has promised to prevent. Upholding the highest standards not just of technical security, but also internal governance, enforcing strict rules over usage and data sharing, becomes critical. There should be clear control over who can access each data category. The good data steward will ensure that it keeps specific promises over exactly what to do with each item of data for which opt-in permission to collect has been granted. It is essential the service provider recognizes that this permission is conditional upon usage limited to the specified applications.

While some of the largest organizations may be able to dedicate internal resources to create an infrastructure for the necessary governance, most video service providers will need the help of a specialist organization dedicated to data and analytics security.

Verimatrix, as a long-standing guardian of revenue from video services, is now well positioned as a specialist in the integrity of personal data collection and the associated data warehouse. This includes not just the technology required to ensure that threats to the whole data structure and surrounding IT systems are countered but also the experience in data governance at the human resource and logistical level.

As service providers come to depend more and more on insights gained from data for customer satisfaction and revenue, this aspect of good data stewardship is going to become a key source of differentiation itself.

We will be talking more about these issues, and highlighting an impressive end-to-end demo of our Verspective Operator Analytics solution at NAB booth #SU3116. Come by for a visit!