Australian businesses are sold on the idea of big data but many are still struggling with the privacy implications and the ethical use of data.

That’s the key takeaway from the 2018 Telsyte Big Data and Analytics Study 2018.

The study found 80 per cent of organisations in Australia with more than 20 employees have a big data strategy, although many are in the embryonic stages with pilot programs and exploratory projects.

The main drivers for big data analytics adoption include digital transformation (58 per cent), customer behaviour measurement (44 per cent) and ecommerce applications (36 per cent).

Despite this enthusiasm, only 61 per cent of businesses were conscious of privacy and regulatory concerns around big data, even with the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme that came into effect in February 2018, and the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into play in May.

The results are taken from a survey conducted late last year with a representative sample of 319 respondents across Australian organisations with greater than 20 employees.

“There is a huge temptation to highly target and customise offers to individuals, but also predict behaviours which generate profits,” said Foad Fadaghi, Telsyte Managing Director.

“However, many have had to draw the line at how sensitive customer data, such as location movements, or passively scraped data is used to target customers,” Fadaghi says.

Companies are also unsure if their behaviour is creepy or not when it comes to amassing customer data. 38 per cent are say they are struggling with the ethical use of customer data and are unsure if they are being “careful not to be creepy”. Concerns include handling of sensitive data which customers might have shared without understanding what they had consented to, such as during the installation of mobile apps or signing up to free web-based services (eg social media sites and email services).

Despite self-imposed regulation, nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of organisations claim they protect data like other assets (eg physical or IP assets) and around half (53 per cent) are willing to share data if there is tangible benefit to their organisation.

Overall, 84 per cent of business and technology leaders saw an improvement to their organisation by using big data analytics. Productivity and improved decision making were rated highly, as was the ability to improve customer intelligence, and control operating costs.

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