Possessing oodles of data is only an unalloyed good if you can protect it from thieves, hackers and other criminals. If you can’t, then that precious asset can suddenly turn toxic – just like fossil fuel reserves. And as a result your balance sheet no longer looks quite as inviting to investors. Apart from the reputational damage – public humiliation, exposure of corporate incompetence, etc – there is also the matter of the fines. Prior to the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), many of the penalties levied by data-protection authorities were risible, especially to large companies. But under the GDPR the bill can run to 4% of global turnover. As the man said, a billion here and a billion there and soon you’re talking real money.

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