The Importance of Data Privacy in the Aviation Industry

Panasonic Avionics
12/01/20 3 MIN READ

By the end of 2020, humans and the machines we build will have together generated 59 zettabytes of data and information, according to figures from Statista. In numbers, that is 59,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. Next year, it’ll be 74 zettabytes.

That is a lot of data.

Companies mine the data to glean certain insights from our consumer choices and thereby attain certain business objectives. This is done within an ever-evolving regulatory landscape shaped by legislation such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

The importance of data privacy in the aviation industry

These two pieces of legislation have been pivotal in the world of consumer data. But transparency and privacy compliance is essential to airlines’ livelihoods. It has become critical to evaluate how your company shares data, and who it shares that data with, in order to accomplish your business objectives. This article sheds light on the complicated nature of ensuring compliance, and how strategic partnerships can make a real difference.

Privacy By Design

Passengers care a great deal about how their data is used. In IATA’s Global Passenger Surveys from 2018 and 2019, passengers were leery of things like biometrics and other technologies they felt might compromise their privacy while traveling. Having a robust privacy program, including compliance with GDPR and CCPA, provides companies with a competitive advantage.

As research firm Deloitte notes, “Ensuring privacy and security has become crucial to avoiding legal liability, maintaining regulatory compliance, protecting your brand, and preserving customer confidence. That’s especially true for organizations that are increasingly subject to heightened scrutiny both internally by their boards and externally by their regulators and business partners.”

This definitely applies to airlines, which have a few choices about how to react.

The first is by adopting a privacy by design and by default. The concept was first developed in 1995 by Ann Cavoukian, a former Canadian information and privacy officer, and is a central tenet of GDPR.

GDPR’s seven principles take a page from Cavoukian’s concept. The concepts are:

  1. Lawfulness, fairness and transparency
  2. Purpose limitation
  3. Data minimization
  4. Accuracy
  5. Storage limitation
  6. Integrity and confidentiality (security)
  7. Accountability

Meanwhile, CCPA includes rights and obligations including:

For companies that collect consumers’ personal data, respecting these privacy rules is critical.

Privacy By Association

The roadmap Cavoukian drew 25 years ago remains relevant today, and is fundamental to Panasonic Avionics’ approach to data privacy.

The data and insights we collect and analyze respect the privacy of passengers who are using our systems to watch inflight entertainment, play games, order in-seat food and duty-free products, and more. What that means for our airline customers is that they can rest knowing that the data being collected is in compliance with international privacy regulations.

Making the Most of Data

There are important insights to be learned from passengers’ usage habits anonymously as well. For instance, the kinds of content programming people are watching (and not watching), what kinds of food and drink they prefer, what types of products and services they’re surfing for on seatback and companion app retail portals, and how long they use the inflight Wi-Fi are all important indicators that can help direct airlines’ purchasing decisions.

These data sources can also be combined with inflight connectivity to promote just-in-time sales, such as food-and-drink combination deals in the last hour of a flight, or loyalty rewards, such as a free hour of Wi-Fi for flyers who spend X-amount of money inflight on service or duty-free items.

Airlines are at a critical juncture in their history, when they must overcome both major regulatory hurdles and the unprecedented collapse of the travel industry. But using data intelligently and strategically doesn’t have to be complicated. Partnering with trusted companies that comply with GDPR, CCPA, and other global privacy regulations gives airlines far fewer things to worry about, giving them the flexibility and freedom to focus on the path ahead.

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