Britain's favourite biscuit is the McVitie's milk chocolate digestive. Britain's favourite ice lollies are Magnum ice creams. And most memorably, the UK will decide to remain in the EU. All of these are the result of polls of individuals conducted by YouGov, the UK polling group, and are just one example of how our personal opinions and data can be monetised by companies.
Despite its usual connection with political polling, YouGov is shifting towards providing big data to industries that are taking how and why people consume the products that they do more seriously. YouGov takes large panels of people, asks them a number of questions covering a wide range of topics that can, for example, provide an indicator for a marketing director to track the effectiveness of an ad campaign on a daily basis. Indeed, you may have been one of those people contributing to YouGov's research through answering targeted questions on your social media or YouTube account.
In order to provide this service, YouGov has recently invested in technology to help its data-gathering and analytics process, including blockchain technology to log responses that are used for market research. This ensures that each response is permanently recorded and cannot be manipulated, so the process of data-gathering and analytics can be conducted in a more traceable and trustworthy fashion, in the same way that voting technology is being changed by blockchain.
This business model is interestingly contrasted to some of the recent privacy and data-gathering scandals that have hit Facebook and other tech companies: The UK government has hit out at Facebook's market power and has proposed regulations to address allegations of propagating misinformation to users based on 'likes'; the German competition authority has prohibited Facebook from combining user data (including page 'likes') across services such as WhatsApp, Instagram and third party websites; and most recently the European Court of Justice has ruled that the operator of a website featuring a 'like' button is a controller of that user data jointly with Facebook and therefore has privacy obligations around user information collected.
The recent steps that YouGov has taken demonstrate how new technologies, including blockchain, can be used to promote big data gathering and analytics that is more compliant with privacy and competition laws. Hopefully this is just the start of technology being used to increase our trust in platforms that access our data.
YouGov is investing in technology to help data-gathering and analytics, including in blockchain as a means of logging how responses are used for market research, showing “receipt of every single use or transfer of data”.