Last updated: Big data security: What it is, the risks, and how to fortify it

Big data security: What it is, the risks, and how to fortify it

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I cannot overstate the importance of big data security. These days, every customer interaction is packed with valuable data brands can learn from. But every piece of data collected is also a potential security risk. In this age of business being driven by data, how can companies get the insights they need, while ensuring security and compliance?

Brands rely on data understand their customers – who they are, what’s important to them – so they can deliver experiences that set them apart from the competition. But that understanding is contingent on trust. Customers will only share their data if they’re confident it will be safe and their preferences will be respected.

It sounds simple enough, but the sheer amount of data companies collect is massive (hence the term, “Big Data”). Ensuring its security is as complicated as it is critical.

What is big data?

Big data refers to collections of data that are so large, they’re impossible to manage (much less learn from) using traditional, manual processes.

I first heard the term, “big data” in an information systems course in college. I thought it was a funny name in a field laden with uber-technical language. Almost like an inside joke, or a goofy way to put emphasize its importance (e.g., “there’s data, and then there’s DATA. All caps. Big data.”)

But, that’s exactly what it is. Data so big, it’s in a class of its own.

Have you ever built a spreadsheet to track key information for a project, only to have it quickly snowball and become unruly and unmanageable? It’s a lot like that, but multiplied to the nth degree.

What do we mean by “big,” exactly? The three Vs of data:

  • Volume (the sheer amount of data collected)
  • Velocity (how quickly the data comes in)
  • Variety (how many different types of data are collected)

Customer data is incredibly valuable, so it makes sense that companies want to collect as much as possible. But at this scale, they need dedicated solutions to manage, interpret, activate, and secure it.

Fortify big data security with a CDP

Thankfully, modern data management systems have been designed specifically to handle big data complexities. And that includes big data security.

Customer data platforms have gained a lot of notoriety for their ability to turn vast amounts of customer data into valuable, actionable insights and comprehensive profiles. They process all of a company’s customer data – including consent data and preferences.

CDPs consolidate all your customer data – from every collection system – into a single database. That database then feeds into various downstream systems to be used by customer teams.

When data is stored in multiple, disparate systems, you can lose track of what data you have, how it’s collected, and where it exists. And you can’t secure something you can’t keep track of.

When all your data is in one place, you know exactly what you have, where to find it, and how it’s being used. It also lets you:

  1. Honor your customers’ privacy preferences everywhere on their journey
  2. Provide a paper trail for your data
  3. Collect only the data you actually need

1. Honor your customers’ privacy and consent preferences everywhere on their journey

Organizations must understand and respect their customers’ privacy and consent preferences if they want to build trust. That is a lot easier to do with a data platform that feeds into downstream systems.

For example, if a customer decides to change their permissions, you only need to change it in one spot – the CDP. Since the other systems pull from there, the update will be shared everywhere else.

You can also filter what data is shared with other systems and tools based on its use (the “purpose”). If a customer has consented to share their data for a specific purpose, the CDP will only share that data for that use case.

For example, say a customer shares their address but only for order updates. If the marketing team were to submit a query regarding an upcoming campaign, the CDP would not share that customer’s email address, since the campaign does not apply to the terms set by the customer.

2. Increase transparency and provide a virtual paper trail for your data

Customers today want to be able to know how their data is being used at any given point. And certain regulations like GDPR require companies to be able to tell them.

As one analyst explains,

“A CDP acts as sort of a paper trail for data. You can see where your customer data came from which is especially important in terms of compliance and privacy regulations like the GDPR and the CCPA. From a marketing perspective, you can also say with certainty that you don’t collect data from third-parties or that you only collect certain kinds of data. That’s what customers want.” (

With big data, it would be impossible to track that information manually. But CDPs keep track of how, when, and where all that data is shared. So whether a customer asks for it or you’re undergoing a routine data audit, you have the receipts for your data practices.

Increasing transparency demonstrates accountability and helps build trust. That trust is crucial for high-value, long-term customer relationships.

3. Understand what data you use, so you can collect only what you need

Does your company use all the data it collects? If you’re collecting data you don’t need, you’re taking on unnecessary risk.

With AI and machine learning, CDPs can identify patterns in big data quickly and accurately. So you can see how the data is being used by your teams and get a sense of what’s working, and what’s not.

CDP: Your big data security system

Companies cannot afford to take data security lightly. And when dealing with huge swaths of complex data, it’s imperative that you have a system in place to give you peace of mind, just like a home security system would. Customer data platforms give you a wholistic view of your data, making it easier to use and secure critical customer information.

Data privacy + security issues are keeping execs awake at night.
We’ve got the solutions HERE.

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