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Personalised nutrition: What about data protection?

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Many companies that rely on data collection are concerned that not all consumers will be so forthcoming with their personal details, particularly following the recent introduction of GDPR, the EU law on data protection and privacy.

Consumers are more concerned than ever about giving corporations personal information following a spate of major global data breaches, creating a potential headache for companies seeking intimate details about health, diet and lifestyle.

Personalised nutrition companies must offer a tangible return to consumers if they expect them to give up valuable personal data – and if they see a clear benefit to sharing their information they will do so willingly an expert panel at the Future of Nutrition Summit 2018 concluded.

“It’s important to make it really easy for consumers to know what happens to their data and how it benefits them,” said Nard Clabbers, Senior Business Developer Personalised Nutrition at TNO in The Netherlands.

As a type 1 diabetic and keen cyclist, Clabbers says he is a prime target consumer for personalised nutrition devices and apps. He points out that sharing information about his blood glucose, the foods he eats and his exercise habits brings concrete returns, keeping him healthy as well as helping to improve his cycling performance.

On a broader scale, Clabber said he was also open to sharing his data with others anonymously, because pooled information about how health conditions, diet and exercise interact for many different individuals could lead to better tailored solutions in the future.

Consumer data beyond GDPR

Yet many companies that rely on data collection are concerned that not all consumers will be so forthcoming with their personal details, particularly following the recent introduction of GDPR, the EU law on data protection and privacy. However, there are still ways to collect necessary data from consenting consumers.

Ingace de Nollin, who runs a digital tailored shopping platform called SmartWithFood, says it is even possible to persuade consumers to share more personal details now than they would have disclosed before GDPR came into force.

“I think with GDPR if you give the data back to the consumer, they gain trust and will give you much more information in return,” he said.  “…If it is only used in a commercial way they don’t want to, but as long as they get something out of it, they are offering much more information.”

De Nollin and Clabbers agreed that for personalised nutrition companies, it is crucial to be completely transparent about how consumers’ data will be used. Then, given a choice between accessing a useful personalised service or not, they suggested that most people would choose to share their data. This comes with an important caveat, however.

“It used to be possible to be a little bit evil, or to hoard a little bit of data,” said Clabbers. “I don’t think that will be possible anymore.”

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