Clarity over digital data use needed

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Fear over the abuse of personal data mar the discussion into personalised nutrition
Fear over the abuse of personal data mar the discussion into personalised nutrition
Personalised nutrition offers a huge opportunity to improve public health, but fears about the abuse of individual data could undermine that prospect unless there is better clarity about its ownership and use, a leading academic in the field has claimed.

Digital data on individuals has significant power to enhance their engagement with food and drink products through improved health, quality and convenience, but there are big concerns about its fair use, Dr Anabel Gutierrez Mendoza, a senior lecturer in digital marketing at the University of Kent, has warned.

“Digital data is not only transforming the way we work, but the way we share data – and we are generating a digital footprint individually that is transforming our humanity,” said​ Mendoza at food safety and quality body NSF International’s 2019 conference, entitled ‘Addressing New Realities’, held in London last month.

Consumer engagement

However, she stressed that society needed to start analysing what was driving consumer engagement and how concerns about individual privacy were creating barriers.

It is an issue that will become even more important with increasing use of personalised nutrition based on an individual’s demographic and health profile, Mendoza added. “Data ownership is going to become a big aspect of our lives as we implement new regulations for data protection.”

Mendoza explained that some people did not want to reveal so much information, especially given recent high-profile scandals over the harvesting and use of personal data by companies such as Cambridge Analytica. “And that is what we are calling the personal privacy paradox​,” she added.

Data collection

Many consumers feared that too much data was being collected about them, creating concerns that they were not in control of their own data, Mendoza said. “So, there are real concerns about security and accuracy of the data, how​ [companies] are selling or sharing the data, and with or without our consent.”

Mendoza’s comments followed the launch of an EU project to provide personalised nutrition and physical activity support to consumers through pioneering technologies.

PROTEIN (PeRsOnalized nutriTion for hEalthy livINg) will develop and supply personalised nutrition and physical activity support using Artificial Intelligence information and techniques so that people can make healthier choices based on their unique needs, behaviours and preferences.

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