Data is a 2-way street in a post-GDPR world

Shown: the banhammer…

THE PROBLEM

The tech industry has gotten a rude awakening this year. Following a few high profile instances of data misuse, European Union has struck down the law and put everyone who sells into Europe (or deals with anyone who does) on notice. Since introduction, GDPR was meant to show both corporations and their users that better clarity around data collection/preservation is the necessary step forward, one that will lead to a fairer digital society, and ultimately benefit all those involved. And in order to do that, the companies themselves must take matters into their own hands by building new tools to let data flow back to the user. The customers demand it, and equally deserve to have control over their digital footprint. In the end this is an EU bill with global ramifications, and we should all be paying attention.

By now you most of you have gotten dozens of emails on “updates to privacy policy” and other notices of forthcoming compliance. This is a welcome reminder that it is you, the user, who’s the focal point GDPR. After decades of computer and telephone use, the companies with whom we trust our business have done plenty to introduce technologies preserving and indexing customer data, undoubtedly pleasing their shareholders, but little to no effort has gone to building interfaces and access points, through which the customers themselves can read that data. Therein lies the imbalance the GDPR stands to address, promoting a mutually beneficial exchange, and giving users a window into their own content.

Consent and opt-in aside, the key tenet of GDPR is therefore granting citizens the ability to control and manage the data and content they produce, through normal everyday use of services. While everyone understands this in context of browsing the internet, few considerations have been given to data privacy in telecommunications, phone calls in particular.

Now think about all the times you called a bank or a mobile service provider, and heard the Nth rendition of “this call is being recorded for XYZ” line. Yet we never stop to think that “this is my data too”… Organizations utilize sophisticated technological machinery in order to process this intake, recording, storing, transcribing and ultimately distilling this conversational data into something usable, something that will help them improve. Yet you, the loyal customer, are stuck with nothing but the handwritten/typed up notes you took during the call. The data you automatically generate during your customer interaction is therefore lost, but only to you. Which got us thinking — there has got to be a better way.

Shown: the better way…

THE SOLUTION

Given the ease with which those companies capture your conversation, the average user stands to derive significant benefit, should those records be as accessible on your phone as, say, long transcribed text conversation. Scrolling through it, they way you would, you can certainly pick out items worth remembering — date of next bill, authorization to transfer funds, a request to send over PDF — the list goes on. For all the notes you jot down, this surely will shave a few hours off your precious time. Having this data at your fingertips will make you a better customer, yet asking said company for it will get you nowhere. “Internal use only”, or so they say.

We at Beam are convinced Multiformat Communications technology like BeamCall is the way forward in giving people back the right to access their own conversations. Not through the Bank’s web portal, that will export a lengthy .txt file. But right on your device. In your hand — you can scroll through every recorded/transcribed call with your thumb, in real-time. With tools like BeamCall, your cognitive demands are subsidized with a persistent record of everything that happens. Accessible the moment you are.

We often think “data” is one way, and “data protection” only applies to one pattern of behavior — browsing the internet, leaving comments and liking pictures. This constitutes the “personal data set” which GDPR aims to protect. Few other things are more personal however than the conversations we have, be it with a business or a friend, and having a record of them should not be a 1-sided proposition. Applying the same GDPR laws to conversational data only makes sense. The question remains, how long will it take before we get there?