Consumer Data and the ‘War on Terror’

The book that I co-authored with Kirstie Ball, Elizabeth Daniel, Sally Dibb, Maureen Meadows and Keith Spiller, has been featured in ‘Research Reporter’, the research newsletter of the Faculty of Business at Oxford Brookes University. The original article is here. Transcript below in case the link does not work for you.


surveillance bookSurveillance, consumer data and the war on terror

The government’s increasing requirements for businesses to support national security programmes has had significant implications. Ana Canhoto’s new, co-authored, book helps businesses prepare for the challenges they may face.


If you have flown in and out of the UK in the last couple of years, you might have noticed that you need to provide the airline with your passport details well ahead of departure, unlike when you travel between other destinations.


Likewise, you may have noticed an increased amount of scrutiny from your bank about the funds entering or leaving your account. These behaviours are the result of regulations that have been imposed by the UK government on commercial organisations, as part of its initiatives to combat crime and terror.


In order to support national security programmes, more and more businesses are required to share information such as customer behaviour. However, our research shows that these requirements are not in favour of the business’ commercial interests.


For instance, those surveyed in our study have been forced to buy expensive information systems in order to collect and process the required data. This has impacted on the businesses’ profit, the shareholders’ income, and has meant changes to the products’ prices.


It has also impacted on operations and ways of working, what customer information is collected or how certain transactions are handled.


We spoke to organisations who felt the requirements have created delays in their service delivery and impacted negatively on customer satisfaction (some customers have found the data collection intrusive).


The requirements have also created tension amongst staff, and additional work requirements, particularly for those in a customer facing role. Many participants also felt that the requirements conflict with the nature of their jobs, such as the emphasis on privacy and secrecy that are characteristics of the financial industry.


Institutions deemed to have made a sub-par effort in complying with the regulations are liable for heavy fines or even imprisonment. So, over time, firms have found ways of adapting to the government’s surveillance requirements.


Some firms have even managed to use the heavy investments and process changes to their advantage. For example, as a source of additional customer insight, or as an opportunity to provide superior customer service.


As more and more business sectors are enlisted in the government’s efforts to fight crime and protect national security, other organisations will be facing similar issues. Our new book The Private Security State? Surveillance, Consumer Data and the War on Terror can help organisations understand the challenges that they will face, and prepare for them.


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