New UFI Report Details Critical Concerns About Data Ownership in the New Era of Events

November 26, 2021

Members of the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) released a white paper underscoring the importance of event organizers posing key questions to suppliers and vendors when processing their customers’ data.

The creation of the white paper became crucial since the pandemic has significantly accelerated the adoption of digital solutions by event organizers over the last 18 months, according to Douglas Emslie, group CEO of Tarsus Group.

 “As a result, there has been a substantial increase in the data ‘we’ are collecting on our customers and their behaviors, as well as an increase in the data our customers are being asked to provide, both explicitly and implicitly,” Emslie said. “Data has always been extremely important to organizers—it’s at the core of the connections we create.”

Emslie added, “As an industry, we need to recognize this change and put steps in place to manage it, otherwise we run the risk of losing our customers’ trust, their engagement and loyalty, which we have built up over many years.”

The paper emphasizes the need to remember that the data is owned by customers who entrust organizers with it to deliver events and services that benefit them. Moreover, event organizers must understand what data is being collected, where it is being stored and secured and ultimately how it is being used by all stakeholders involved, in particular any potential commercial uses in the future.

“We need to tighten up our data policies and processes so that we can demonstrate to our customers that we take protection of their data as seriously as they do,” Emslie said. “Finally, we need to put in more time assessing and selecting which digital partners to work with. A good user interface and a competitive price is not enough—we need to understand what’s going on under the hood while ensuring all the correct protections are in place.”

According to Merilyne Davies, global director of privacy and data protection officer for RX Global, in the new era of digital and hybrid events, the industry is processing more data on customers and providing greater insights and opportunities for data-driven innovation and growth.

“With increasing legislation, litigation, security threats and customer expectation around privacy and data security, it is critical now more than ever that we as an industry come together to develop the standards and collective knowledge that we need to protect the data that is entrusted to us to sustain our future,” Davies said.

Davies outlined three important steps organizers can take to be vigilant about data privacy and data ownership concerns as the industry continues to evolve.

  • Be aware of your legislative responsibilities in all jurisdictions to which you operate. Not all privacy legislation is created equally, so there are differences to be mindful of, as these may pose commercial risks depending upon your data processing activities.
     
  • Know your data and what you are responsible for. What data do you process, where, why and how? Does this align to your legislative responsibilities but also, and equally critical, your customer expectations?
     
  • Know what your supplier is doing with your data. Be clear on how your data is being processed by suppliers and vendors and what risks and liabilities this may pose. The paper provides an introduction to the types of questions organizers should be asking of vendors and suppliers to identify those risks and liabilities.

Lisa Hannant, group managing director of Clarion Events, emphasized the need for senior leadership of organizations to put the issue of customers’ data privacy on the agenda as soon as possible.

“This issue isn’t going away, and we all need to engage now,” she said. “This impacts the long-term value of the industry. A customer-centric organization where fostering customer trust is paramount will ensure topics such as data ownership are surfaced quickly and actions are taken to safeguard one of the most valuable assets organizers possess.”

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