In our last blog we talked about the trustworthiness of digital services as an outcome objective of the GDPR, so that in tourism, hospitality and events we make our visitors and delegates feel as comfortable and happy with the way we obtain and process their personal data as they do with other personal services we provide. But what does this mean in reality?  In this third of three blogs on the GDPR we explore how digital services could positively integrate with the real world of personal service if the GDPR achieves its objective.

The Internet is coming out of its Teens

The Internet is barely out of its teens, and its business processes have yet to mature to a point where they stop being disruptive to society and instead become integral and supportive. In this report from the Mobile Ecosystem Forum 40% of people don’t use digital apps and services due to trust concerns, while 47% would recommend a trustworthy app or service to a friend.  This shows maturation from a world of unknowns to one where the risks and benefits are beginning to be understood, and as the report suggests, people are getting more proactive in seeking out services that benefit them first whilst mitigating any associated risk. But, we are still at a point where 39% of people actively seek to avoid sharing their data.

If the GDPR does its job, we’ll all feel more comfortable that businesses put our interests first, properly protect our data, and only take and use MyData (a movement I support) in ways we understand – and best of all we have confidence that a business that breaks these bonds of trust will be adequately dealt with in a manner that limits the likelihood they’ll continue their poor practice. So what does a world where the GDPR has done its job look like 5-10 years from now?

A Post-GDPR Society

Looking forward with rose-tinted spectacles I see a better society where digital services are more integral to our every day and supportive of societal values. Instead of the boisterous Internet teenager disrupting us and driving fundamental change upon us, it’ll become a young adult, aware of its responsibilities, seeking to align and fit in with societal needs.  Instead of 39% actively seeking to avoid sharing their data, 90%+ will pro-actively engage. Our broader societal awareness of tech and its impact means we are already debating what the ethics of Machine Learning (the more accurate name for Artificial Intelligence which the Royal Society recommends) should be, so even new tech will mature more rapidly into societal norms.  Boring?  Maybe slightly more so, but no less valuable, in fact more so.  Because once people actively and willingly engage in digital service provision we gain the benefits more rapidly in terms of efficiencies. Computers and the Internet again become more of what they were originally designed to be, our digital servants, as opposed to the digital masters some digital monopolies have become, able to influence even the outcome of elections (watch this Panorama programme).

Bringing community values to events

But what does this mean to the events and hospitality sector?  What we know is that the more our visitors engage with one another, the more value they place in our venue or event.  It’s a challenge to create a community feel in environments where engagement is so fleeting.  But a world where we can instantly discover who else is in a venue that share our interests, yet remain effective strangers until we meet in real life, is one where networking value is accelerated.  When a digital engagement platform overlaps one to one with a venue or event enabling broadcast discussions that remain private to the visitors to a location, we foster a very different ‘community’ conversation to the heavily trolled Twittersphere. Yet to bring this value to a location normally requires sharing of our location, something we instinctively avoid and rightly so; location data exposed on the Internet can be used to impact our real lives far too easily.

A GDPR-ready platform would find ways to connect venue and event visitors together without needing or knowing location, thus becoming more trustworthy and facilitating an integration of the digital world with place.  This is what we have done with The Krowd, as just one example of how the GDPR can drive innovation in ways that society can approve of. It’s a platform that asks for almost no data yet facilitates location-based engagement. It protects businesses as their clientele are not exposed to my company or to anyone not there, it protects individuals as it enables pseudonymous engagement in the same way I can talk to you without giving a name, only sharing a business card once I decide I want to continue the conversation at a later date.  The more we reflect societal values in our services the more integral they can become to our business and society.

Here’s a real story that exemplifies what I mean.  About five years ago my daughter, aged 13, asked if she could have a Facebook account. As a protective father who fully understands how Facebook turns you into the product for sale, I answered as any protective father would, “No way”, to which my wife then asked “OK, so what’s the alternative?”.  That question vexed me as I realised that many of the social tools on the Internet had lost their moral compass.  It led to me deciding to build a company that created a product that if a parent were asked the same question again, the answer would be “Of course you can!”. Until each and everyone one of us builds products to which this is the answer, or selects suppliers whose services can pass the same test, we won’t have the Internet we want and we won’t trust it either.  But a world where the digital services are trustworthy becomes one where digital and real integrate to societal benefit. Like a stern schoolteacher, the GDPR is about to step forward and guide us to this future.  It’s a sunnier future for businesses and citizens, and I am hopeful.