Keeping consumer data safe
Image Credit: iStock

Last month, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry published an analysis based on Google Trends. During Covid-19 the chamber found that residents were increasingly turning to online shopping. According to Mastercard, in April 2020, online card payments in the UAE experienced year-on-year growth of 316 per cent.

With the pandemic driving an ever greater number of UAE residents online, how can people be confident that their information is safe and what steps are UAE businesses taking to ensure this is the case?

We ensure the encryption of data by default, that users are in full control of their data and are promptly notified if we detect a security breach.

- Google spokesperson

One of the most successful companies in the online world, Google says that it views privacy as an important part of its business and uses encryption to protect users’ information. “Our adherence to recognised international security and privacy standards is certified and validated by independent auditors — wherever a customer’s data is located in Google Cloud,” says a Google spokesperson. “We ensure the encryption of data by default, that users are in full control of their data and are promptly notified if we detect a security breach.”

Salwa Lababidi, Marketing and E-commerce Manager at Atasay, says that her company is continuously looking for ways to improve her company’s websites. “We launched both and, prioritising the security aspects for the customers’ transactions. The gold and jewellery industry is based on a traditional, personalised and safe buying approach, and while the retail game is changing fast, we are constantly exploring new business models and innovation opportunities where customer trust and safety are at the core.

“Our payment gateway offers 3D Secure and Authentication, fraud screening, cloud security and gateway risk rules. We have set our software and servers with the latest security fixes and patches, our IDS/IPS systems block malicious bots and attackers, and we constantly monitor vulnerabilities in the most updated applications and modules.”

Labadidi says that since the pandemic, Atasay’s focus has predominantly moved online. “With 2020’s unique challenges, our marketing plan shifted to mainly focus on ecommerce projects and our online presence. While our priority is to reassure customers about the safety of their transactions, we also make sure that safety is embedded at all contact points with the customer during their online journey from sharing their information to making the payment and eventually receiving their gold items safely.”

Education through training

Avinash Babur, Founder and CEO of, says that his organisation works to provide staff with the skills they need to ensure consumers’ information is protected. “All employees with access to customer data are required to comply with our robust data protection policy. They also undergo IT security training to ensure they, in the course of their work, carry out all the recommended best practices to ensure data security at all times.”

Babur says that also invests in online security and that they have strict rules about sharing customers’ information. “We use world-class server providers with maximum security and for every

project and initiative the security of the data on our platform is the core area of focus for our tech team.

“In addition, we don’t share sensitive client data such as contact information with insurance companies for the majority of our products and we are covered by contracts to protect the data in the few instances that we do.”

He says that the business would also take responsibility if consumers’ information was compromised. “Even though we have all measures in place to ensure our data remains secure, we are also prepared to cover the liability of any unforeseen potential breach through a comprehensive cyber insurance programme.”

Utilising AI

Dr Angelika Eksteen, CEO of AIDirections, explains that artificial intelligence can be a useful tool for protecting consumers’ information. “AI can be used for anomaly protection, detecting unusual activity such as fraud, physical intruders and network intrusion.

“Based on AIDirections’ developments in the area of computer vision, AI can be used to recognise the faces of people with access to security-restricted areas. It can also be used for liveliness detection, avoiding the need to physically review photos.

“Another example is the use of AI in products for cybersecurity, such as Splunk, that uses AI for valuable insights in security data and analytics.”

Dr Eksteen says that people and businesses’ understanding of the different uses for AI is constantly evolving and that her organisation takes a number of steps to educate residents.

“Improving the understanding of AI is an ongoing journey; AIDirections is helping here by producing articles, papers, messages on social media, participating in conferences and responding immediately to any questions posted to us.

“According to McKinsey & Co., it is important to raise the understanding of AI’s impact to the future success of a business. Early adopters of AI will be the winners in the long term.”

Businesses are often expecting a quick return on investment from AI technology but this is not necessarily always the case, says Dr Eksteen.

“With each investment, businesses are often looking for return on investment (ROI). With AI, ROI is dependent on the success of AI projects, and the criteria for measuring this success need to be defined, possibly beyond ROI.”

She advises UAE businesses to implement AI to protect consumers on a manageable scale, avoiding unnecessary costs or complications. “Don’t try to run before you can walk,” she says. “It is better to start with a limited scope and clear boundaries to avoid the project becoming unmanageable.”

Dr Eksteen also suggests that initial AI projects should not be too ambitious, and should be implementable in less than a year and have reasonable targets.

“Define realistic outputs and KPIs – the outputs of an AI project and KPIs to measure its success need to be clearly defined. You can only manage what you can measure, and it is important to understand when and where improvements need to be made.”