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As Data Privacy Concerns Ramp Up, the Need for Governed Real-Time Data Has Never Been Greater

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Read more about author Adam Mayer.

This year’s Privacy Awareness Week (May 2-8) may be over, but it served as a reminder to look beyond the usual access controls and think about how analytics could be used to support compliance. Data privacy is essential for any business, but it is especially important at a time when consumers are taking notice and new regulations are being deployed. Any business that violates the rules of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) could pay thousands – even millions – of dollars in fees. These expenditures are entirely avoidable, as are the repercussions that could follow any breach in consumer trust. But how can businesses keep up with data concerns and remain compliant while ensuring they have the necessary actionable insights to accelerate their vision and achieve their goals?

The answer can be found in real-time data, the results it provides, and the way that information is governed to protect the privacy of clients and consumers alike. Let’s look at how this can be accomplished and what businesses can do going forward.

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Gain a Competitive Edge in an On-Demand World

In an on-demand world where all information is expected in an instant, it would be difficult to imagine a business that would settle for historical datasets that are not designed to support real-time decision-making. Yet some organizations do just that, believing that the old way is still the best way. However, it was never really the best way at all, not even in years past – it was simply the only way businesses could access their data at the time.

Real-time data is the way forward for any business looking to advance and gain a competitive edge. It is easily one of the most valuable resources modern businesses can and should possess, particularly for its ability to empower organizations to make the right decision in the business moment. This eliminates working on stale data and the need for assumptions and guesswork. Instead of merely thinking you know the answer, real-time data provides a level of certainty that is critical in an increasingly evolving landscape. Real-time data is the foundation of achieving active Intelligence, providing continuous insights from up-to-date information that not just informs, but can be relied upon to trigger immediate actions.

Use a Holistic Approach to Data Governance

Real-time data – and the instantaneous benefits that follow as a result – are critical, but enterprises must proceed with caution. The same insights that have the power to propel a business forward may also contain highly sensitive information that requires good governance. A holistic approach to data governance provides organizations with the ability to harness real-time data insights without causing data privacy issues.

Understanding the data lineage can help build trust into the data that is being consumed. From a data governance perspective, it can help the likes of data stewards to not only understand the source of the data, but also expand to data contents and quality. This makes it possible to better manage how the data should be consumed and who the right people are to consume it. 

If you use a data catalog that has governance built in, you can not only help secure who has access to the data, but who has access to the functionality of the catalog itself. This is useful to cater for data engineers, data stewards, and the data consumers who each have different needs regarding how they manage or use the data. For example, only data stewards are allowed to add tags to a dataset in order to better identify the information for data consumers. Additionally, should the catalog offer data masking capabilities, this can help with data privacy concerns by allowing data engineers and data stewards to obfuscate sensitive or personally identifiable data before it is made available to the data consumers.

Data literacy education can play a role in compliance as well. Apart from the ability to better understand how to interpret what the data is telling you, another important part of data literacy is being more comfortable with consuming data. This helps to foster more responsible use of the data by enabling your data consumers to recognize when they are dealing with data that needs to be treated more responsibly. This can go a long way toward preventing accidental misuse or sharing of sensitive data to the wrong individuals.

Ensure That People Only Have Access to Appropriate Data

Analytics programs can help IT teams visualize who has access to what information and if that remains relevant to their role. This is especially important during the Great Resignation, when people are coming and going at a record pace. IT teams can bring together disparate datasets on user access controls – as well as HR lists of employees who are just starting, changing roles, or leaving the company – to confirm that there are no anomalies.

Any change, even one in which the employee remains at the firm, could require an adjustment to ensure that people have access to only the data that is appropriate for their role. By using all available data along with automation, organizations can start to break down those common silos that tend to exist between teams, including IT, HR, and LOB. This helps businesses introduce real intelligence into the management of data privacy to reduce the risk of human error and streamline processes for IT teams.

For example, when someone moves between departments of the same company, but they have access permissions to sensitive data that they now no longer require in their new role, IT must react quickly. They should treat this scenario as they would when someone leaves the company. By combining access control lists with employee-related data to changes for joiners, movers, and leavers, IT would have better visibility of changes and be aligned with HR. Taken a step further, automation could be used to optimize the manual processes that would remove human error, such as failure to notify IT of changes or long turnaround times to manually pass the required information to the relevant teams.

Use Data to Drive Business Outcomes

Data is essential to any business looking to stay competitive, scale AI, and increase earnings. But it can’t come at the expense of consumer data privacy, which remains a top concern for people worldwide. By deploying a smarter strategy – relying on real-time insights that are properly governed with a holistic approach – organizations can rise above these challenges. The result will allow enterprises to make the most of their insights and ensure that sensitive information is only accessible to those who can and should use the data to drive business outcomes.

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