Ensuring Privacy by Design

Data innovation and privacy protection can and should go hand-in-hand, says Mastercard's chief data officer.

Oliver Wyman Forum: You often speak about the need for balancing data innovation with privacy protection for individuals. What are your thoughts on the state of that balance today, and how can companies work with regulators and policymakers to get it right?

JoAnn Stonier: For too long, innovation and the protection of privacy were considered at odds. That is the opposite of how responsible organizations are designing products and solutions today.  They understand the need to provide both innovation and privacy. This means designing solutions with privacy and security built in right from the beginning.  Measures like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation began to plant these ideas with requirements like the privacy impact assessment. Now many organizations are going beyond regulatory mandates and embracing the idea that privacy protections must be central to future offerings. 

OWF: The Forum’s Future of Data initiative aims to foster responsible data-driven innovation. Your duties at Mastercard include finding ways to establish standards and practices for the company’s data strategy. What are the biggest challenges in this process?  How can this process be leveraged to increase innovation?

JS: My job is make sure we can innovate with data in a responsible manner, keeping the individual and their interests central to all we do. 

When we set governance standards, we focus on several key areas:  do we have the right data for the task, is the data of the right quality, have we obtained it from the right source, can we verify its lineage, and do we understand the parameters of its use and analysis?  The challenge is to continue to innovate, but to do so in a manner that ensures accountability and ethics in our processes.

OWF: Your new data responsibility initiative claims to put the individual at the center of its practices. What does that mean in practice, and how can it help build trust with consumers?

JS: Individuals are much savvier than they were at the dawn of the digital age. They understand that their data is used to provide them with services, but they expect to understand how their data is used and by whom, to be able to control how that information is used, and to have their privacy respected and their information kept secure. 

According to a survey we recently commissioned, only 26% of consumers say companies are doing a very good job handling individuals’ data compared with 49% of business leaders. We believe that gap is bad for individuals, and it’s bad for business. While the first generation of digital innovation really focused on products, the next generation is going to need to focus on people and their interests.   

In practice, this means we are designing differently.  For example, our artificial intelligence governance process not only reviews the quality of the data that goes into the machine learning and AI models but also uses observational AI to monitor for bias and drift. 

JoAnn Stonier is Mastercard’s chief data officer. She will be participating in “Data Futures Collide: Enabling Responsible Data-Driven Innovation,” an Oliver Wyman Forum panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, January 22.