First panel discussion

First panel discussion

moderated by Twan Huys

  • Ulla Kruhse-Lehtonen, Sanoma
  • Riikka Turunen, Sanoma,
  • Professor Peter Vervest, RSM

Consumer data

The first of the afternoon’s question-and-answer sessions featured Sanoma’s Ulla Kruhse-Lehtonen and Riikka Turunen, and Professor Peter Vervest.

The audience was asked to indicate, with a show of hands, how many of them had opted to disallow cookies on their smartphones and tablets. Less than half of the audience had done so. An even smaller number had actually read the official ‘terms and conditions’ or the privacy policies relating to their use of websites. In contrast, Riikka Turunen admitted: “I find them tremendously exciting.”

The audience was also asked if they thought that ‘privacy’ could become a competitive advantage for European businesses. Very few audience members thought so; it was not something on everyone’s mind, but Sanoma’s Director of Data Protection and Privacy, Riikka Turunen, said the threats outlined by Professor Vervest were very relevant.

Ulla Kruhse-Lehtonen commented that automated decision-making, like gene therapy, can do scary things and it can do great things. Technological advances will increase, she said, and there is no going back. “We have these capabilities, and there needs to be certain rules that are worldwide.” 

Riikka Turunen said she is an optimist: “We need research, technology, scientists and all professionals – as we have in this room today – to come up with the rules so we can innovate and yet not live in a surveillance society.

If it’s sensitive, don’t use it

Sanoma was already preparing to allow its customers to see their data in real time at some point in the future. “We think that it's a competitive advantage,” said Ulla Kruhse-Lehtonen. “Users get to know what's there and become more engaged and interested. Others like them are also interested – so maybe I would be interested too.”

Quickly debating the ‘right to be forgotten’, it was pointed out that even though Google links from someone’s name to a criminal conviction could be deleted from the World Wide Web, court records cannot be deleted from official records.

The Sanoma executives warned that it was easy to step over the line into inappropriate advertising. For example, being ‘signed-in’ to Google while searching brings targeted advertising to consumers, but brings risks to online marketers. An underage pregnant teenage girl was searching for products relating to her condition, and was targeted with adverts relating to pregnancy. Her father, when he found out, was furious. Companies would therefore be well advised to avoid using sensitive customer information in their targeted advertising.

“If it's sensitive, don't use it,” said Riikka Turunen who advised clearly identifying sensitive categories in data systems. 

Dangerous decisions from incomplete data

Peter Vervest added that the consumer should also be responsible for checking their own data, and for adding a note or marker if it was incorrect. “The danger is making decisions based on incomplete or incorrect data,” he said.

A question from the audience asked the speakers to consider the principle of privacy, the selling of data and government interference. Riikka Turunen said that the rules should be applicable to any use of data; governments are also stakeholders and the principles apply to them too. “Make sure that consumers understand you are going to sell their data when they start to use your device,” she warned. Prof. Vervest pointed out that there are tools that give consumers control of how companies use their data, and reminded the audience of a distinction to remember: if the online service is free, then you – the consumer – are the product being sold.