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Euro'vision blog

A look at the key issues for pharma across Europe

Data goes into overdrive

Suddenly – data might be getting a whole lot more complicated… Access to your data is big business – enough to have driven up the value of Facebook phenomenally. A recently published EU proposal may set out to protect your privacy, but there’s a twist in the tale.

So Facebook is valued at US $75 to $100bn for its upcoming listing and sale of shares. A staggering valuation – higher than many companies that actually produce things. And what makes Facebook quite so valuable? Is it the technology that underpins it? Some particularly clever algorithms that make it different from other platforms? No! Simply put, it's your data, and access to your data that make it so valuable and attractive to everyone.

Data collected on the internet either via search, social networks, mail usage, iTunes, online shopping, or other means, is huge business. The recent furore over Google's decision to amalgamate the data from Google+ and other sources, to offer tailored search results shows what a sensitive issue this is. For Google and other companies to go ahead in the face of tremendous public trepidation confirms the value that they see in gathering and linking data.

So it is interesting to watch the latest developments in the European Commission and their approach to the subject of data. The new proposal on this subject, recently published under the title A European Data Protection Framework for the 21sth century has a number of serious implications for the data industry; and for all those that rely on this data to market and promote their services.

In a nutshell the new proposal has two aspects: the first is a much more stringent approach to consent and disclosure. The consent must be given explicitly, and the user has to be told which of their data will be collected and for what purpose. Secondly people should have the right either to take their data to another provider or to have it deleted if they don't want it to be used (the right to be forgotten).

As with all such proposals, on the surface it looks very reasonable. Anyone who has tried to have data removed from a Google search (for a long time my mobile phone number when searched yielded my full name and home address, and there was little I could do to stop this) will welcome the right to be forgotten. However, imagine the amount of additional work that dealing with individual demands for data clarification removal and permission will bring, and the restrictions it will add.

And finally think about some of the implications in the healthcare communications' arena. Take for example an iPad detail. Most electronic details of this type have the ability to collect data (even if many companies currently don't use it). I can imagine that if this proposal becomes law, before each call the representative is going to need to obtain written permission to collect data on the call, and the doctor will need to be transparently informed what the data might be used for. This process could probably take up most of the allotted time for the call, to say nothing of increasing the doctor's reluctance to take part.

So we all should keep a very close eye on this proposal and where it goes to, because suddenly the wonderful world of data, which we are all starting to value and rely on, might suddenly get a whole lot more complicated…

Article by
Max Jackson

Max Jackson is CEO, EMEA & APAC, Sudler & Hennessey and former chair EACA Healthcare Communications Council

1st February 2012


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