Big Data has been hailed as the exciting second phase of the digital revolution, with experts calculating that it has the potential to generate up to tens of billions of pounds of economic benefit; and to transform public service provision, healthcare, and even law and order.

Both public and private sector organisations are excited about the rich seams they might strike from intelligent mining of Big Data on customers. So far, so good...

But there is a risk of a consumer backlash against organisations that take a controversial stance when it comes to what they choose to do with the reams of personal data they possess on their customers.

A major food retailer announced this week that it is considering using loyalty card data to identify shoppers with poor dietary habits and to suggest heathier eating options. Some customers might love the idea and view it as welcome intervention from a familiar brand which wants to help them in their resolve to be healthy. However, equally, others might resent it.

The move has sparked a wider debate about when the use of Big Data crosses the line and strays into Big Brother territory. 

Views on this will hinge on whether consumers trust the brand that is collecting information on them via live customer interaction, whether passively or actively. As importantly, it will also depend on whether consumers trust that the brand will use the information it collects in a way that benefits them as a customer.

It is good that organisations care about their customers and that they want to use data insights to have meaningful engagement with them, and it is also good that organisations are taking corporate social responsibility seriously.

On one level, it’s a step in the right direction when you consider CCA research last year which showed that 44% of consumers don’t think companies pay attention to or care about what they think.

But at the other end of the spectrum, consumers will understandably be wary of organisations who attempt to get too up close and personal, especially when it comes to lifestyle choices. (Although, Amazon has built a thriving business doing precisely that - offering personalised customer recommendations based on buying history.)

Remember that customer trust is a fragile thing, slow and difficult to acquire and swiftly lost if organisations take liberties with personal data. If Big Data is the way forward, organisations must pay even more attention to safeguarding trust.

We need to think long and hard about where to draw the line on Big Data without losing sight of its potential to help improve our understanding of the world, from both a personal and business perspective. The key point is that the world is heaving with data but it only has real value when it is collated, correlated and delivered in response to need.

That is precisely the approach we’ve taken at CCA, compiling actionable insight from a variety of activities - interactive webinars, member surveys, expert interviews and consumer research.

Our research activity generates a wealth of intelligence but we recognise that it takes time to sift through the very substantial body of work we have produced. That’s why this year we decided to distill our own Big Data into a CCA Research Compendium which presents a year’s worth of output in a digestible and easy-to-use format. We are in the final stage of this project and will announce launch plans soon.

So, if there are just two things you do this year to keep abreast of Big Data on customer contact, the first should be to book a place at Convention where we will use the Big Data we’ve generated to create a blueprint for the future of customer service and the second should be to book a copy of our Research Compendium.