Track me, but are you managing my data?

Contact tracing, also known as track and trace or test and trace, has become very visible over the last few months, but you might be unaware that it has been going on behind the scenes for years in the digital world: I am talking about how big companies track your data! What you do, what you see, what you like – they know so much that they are even able to predict what you might do next using the powers of big data and artificial intelligence (AI). While some of this can seem very scary, there are some benefits, such as giving you a personalised experience and improved offerings.

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With GDPR in full swing, companies have been forced to think long and hard about their data assets and create a data strategy that suits everyone, be that in a digital sense or old-school paper and pen. It’s important to note that GDPR must still be followed during a pandemic – even the British Government isn’t exempt after falling foul by not completing a Data Protection Impact Assessment on their own internal Test and Trace system, before shelving it. Although most data strategies still have a long way to go, progress is being made all the time. For example, companies have had to quickly adapt to remote working practices, which have created a pool of fresh data for analysis; this includes new working patterns that would have moved the digitalisation process forward for many businesses.   

For small companies, the Coronavirus outbreak is likely to be the first time they have had to think seriously about data and its importance. With a patriotic sense of supporting the NHS from a distance over the last few months, many businesses are now able to directly support them via contact tracing. However, this hasn’t been plain sailing – while it’s not yet a legal requirement, a number of companies have set up systems or applications that don’t follow the law or best practice. There have been cases of small businesses using contact tracing to conduct advertising without explicit consent, phone numbers being used to stalk customers, and papers with personal details being left unattended for all to see.

It is always the responsibility of the data controller, to ensure they are doing it right. Understanding the fundamental components within a data strategy will help any business to start off on the right foot.

Data Objectives

It’s critical to understand your data objectives from the start. If you’re clear about what data you need and how you will use it, you will save time and money in the long run. Many projects go over budget or time simply because what was originally implemented did not create or record the right data. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have been helpful enough to provide detail on collecting customer and visitor details for contract tracking which can be found here.   


Data projects often fail if people aren’t properly engaged. Empowering people within your business to own and understand the importance of the data is essential. When people know how they are directly helping the business, they are often more engaged because they feel they are making a difference, which in turn leads to greater job satisfaction.


Processes are about doing the right thing at the right time, and they have the biggest impact on data quality. People are likely to stop following processes if they no longer understand their importance, and they will develop their own processes and bad habits over time without proper training and supervision.


Every data strategy needs the right technology to ensure optimal collection, analysis and security. Many businesses have purchased systems that don’t fulfil their data requirements, and this is mainly due to a lack of understanding about what data is fundamentally required. It’s also important to understand that as objectives and processes change over time, so should the technology. This has been highlighted recently, businesses that were already set up for remote working and online purchasing, have left those without these capabilities behind.

If you can get these four components in place, your data assets will be at the heart of what you do, and your business will move in the right direction.

Mark Lugg

Mark Lugg

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