Competing With Data & Analytics
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Organizations are collecting more and more data. And while rich data allows personalized service, detailed data about real people (rightly) often raises concerns. Just as this data is increasingly valuable to organizations, it can be valuable to criminals as well, leading to an ever-escalating series of data breaches. Data analytics exacerbates trade-offs between security and service; the analytical processes on data can, at a minimum, raise privacy concerns for individuals because much of marketing analytics tries to learn as much as possible about potential customers. These analytics processes are becoming increasingly powerful at de-anonymizing people from their trace data.
However, these de-anonymization techniques are an example of a way that analytics offers at least a partial solution to the problems it has exacerbated.
Consider, for example, placing a call to your bank for help after losing your debit card. The core problem is that, before providing customer service, the bank must authenticate that you are who you say you are. This authentication process must begin with the assumption that the caller is a malefactor impersonating the real customer — guilty until proven innocent. The bank will help the caller only after being convinced of the caller’s identity.
While this process is annoying when we’re customers seeking help, we actually want and need this level of security. It is in our best interests that the bank will verify that we are who we say we are before continuing to assist us. After all, we don’t want the bank to hand out our money (or our new debit card) willy-nilly to just anyone.
Historically, this telephone authentication process involves answering a set of questions. What is your account number? What is your personal identification number (PIN)? What is your Social Security number? Can you verify the last three transactions in the account? What is your prior address? The process continues, potentially escalating to security challenge questions based on shared secrets, until the bank is convinced of our identity.
This process is adversarial by design. Even the name “security challenge question” evokes a combative stance, a challenge. The initiator of the call is not trusted until passing through a gauntlet. For banks, it is unfortunate that so many initial interactions with a customer are adversarial in nature.