As one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, Vodafone’s privacy program revolves around operationalizing privacy throughout the company. This year, the company’s submission for the HPE-IAPP Privacy Innovation Award won an honorable mention. Focused on its "Location Insights" solution specifically, Vodafone's submission indicated how the company was able to harness the anonymized geospatial movement data of its users to give organizations adopting the product a better understanding of how populations move in time and space, all while keeping the privacy of its customers top of mind.
The HPE- IAPP Privacy Innovation Awards are handed out annually to recognize unique programs and services in global privacy and data protection. Highlighting organizations that integrate privacy in such a way that it elevates its value, both a competitive differentiator and a centerpiece of customer and citizen trust, the award serves to distinguish privacy programs and innovation in the field.
The movement data used to operationalize Location Insights, obviously sensitive, is derived from users across Vodafone's mobile networks. To ensure the product is both lawful and adheres to social-norm expectations, Vodafone’s privacy and ethics frameworks require the data is both anonymous and aggregated and customers can opt-out through an uncomplicated process.
Vodafone Global Privacy Officer Mikko Niva said, “Location Insights is a very good example of unleashing the value of data to do social good in our societies, but done in a way that protects the privacy of our customers.”
Niva added, “Vodafone’s program is about operationalizing privacy. It’s also about having the vision, the governance and the strategy.”
As a strategic objective, Vodafone recognized that organizations are rapidly adopting big data to drive and improve operations, services and planning. The Location Insight program's goal is for organizations to better understand how people interact with the world around them and use that to drive informed innovation. But without Location Insights' privacy controls and Vodafone's privacy program more generally, those kinds of insights couldn't be safely gathered. The product is a great example of something that could easily be done terribly wrong, Niva said.
"What we have done is to always make sure the controls are in place to anonymize and aggregate the data. I'm very proud of the way we have implemented this and protected our customers." He added, "I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. We have the right tone from the top. Senior management is very aware of privacy as a risk and we understand that if we do the wrong thing, we will lose the trust that our customers place in us. That understanding it is reflected in everyday communications and in people taking it seriously.”
As Niva sees it, “The challenge that the privacy profession has had for some time is the immaturity of operational privacy management practices. For those of us who have been in the field for long enough, we remember the days when there were no standards to guide us. At Vodafone, we have a common standard which helps introduce privacy throughout.”
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