Published September 8, 2022

Connecting Physical and Digital Environments Together Safely to Create a Better Feel of Community | Speaking with Adrennial’s Adam Gwinnett


We recently spoke to Adam Gwinnett, CISO, all things data and online communities including ownership of user’s information, user experience, and the future of online communities. Adam will be joining us as a Think Tank moderator at our upcoming Industry Thinkers event, click here to learn more.


Introduction to yourself…who you are, what you do, who you work for?

My name’s Adam Gwinnett, I’m a lifelong technologist and have worked in high data sensitivity environments for much of my career. I’m currently the vCISO for Adrennial, an outdoor and adventure lifestyle streaming brand, where I’m helping them balance the privacy of their users with the opportunities for their partners and members to maximize the benefit of their engagement. It’s very different from my previous roles, but the learnings I brought from those environments have really helped accelerate our understanding of the art of the possible in this space.


How do you monitor ownership of a user’s information and data?

We start from a principle that all data is owned by the user it pertains to and that created it, be that a partner or an individual member. All of our data records are tagged with this original creator as an attribute so that we can directly process any requests relating to it in line with whichever regulatory regime is applicable (we have explicit measures for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Australian Privacy Act (APA) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) as examples).

Where our services augment or enrich the data of a user directly then we treat that (the augmented version) as being jointly owned with perpetual usage rights for both parties whilst keeping the original data intact. We make this explicit in our user agreements and Privacy Policy and regularly review and report across the usage of this data.

For partners, we also provide a dashboard on how we have processed their data, what enrichment and augmentation have occurred and how their data is being accessed and consumed so that they can take an informed view of how we are meeting our obligations.


How do you get the balance right between data collected and user experience?

Collecting more data from and about users allows for the personalisation of presented data and advertising, which all helps to make the user experience more engaging and relevant. Users can appreciate this where it helps them with their own personal goals and motivations and are willing to disclose information on this basis as seen with numerous social media platforms and industry research. Where users are less keen to disclose this data is where it appears to be for the commercial benefit of the processing organisation without reciprocity or improvements for the users themselves.

Collecting data on usage also allows us to prioritise improvements and new features for users based on their interests and usage. We balance this against concerns users may have with their usage of apps on their personal devices being monitored and so aim to collect the minimum amount of data needed to gain understanding of use at a macro level, pseudonymising this data so that it is not traceable back to individual users. Where we would value directly attributable feedback, we invite users to trial Beta features and provide input to our feature roadmap so that they understand exactly what is being asked of them and can explicitly agree or decline the opportunity. For us this gives the best balance between individual privacy, the benefit of our users and the value to the business.


What is the future for online communities?

The direction for online communities is away from simply sharing content to sharing experiences, working towards goals either individually or collectively and in finding connections with people and places through shared skills, activities and interests. As an extension of this we anticipate the development of mechanisms to allow users to control the sharing of their data more granularly, sharing more openly and fully with those with whom they share a goal or activity to facilitate learning, community and sentiment. Users are finding ways to share the emotional state they experienced and the sense of achievement in addition to the activity and through this are building a greater sense of shared experience and camaraderie.

Beyond this we expect to see the creation of a greater number of smaller communities with advertising and service frameworks geared to support the themes and activities of the community itself, rather than groups within general community platforms that rely on scale and generic appeal for engagement and commercial traction. Partners that directly support the goals and skills of their communities will find good opportunities for both engagement and commercial activity in these spaces focusing on areas with highest relevance rather than widespread campaigns with low rates of return.


Moving forward, what are you doing to connect physical spaces to digital spaces to create a better feel of community?

Digital augmentation has already gained a degree of traction with digital information presented in physical locations through specialist apps in controlled environment. We see an expansion for this with users being able to generate and create digital content and leave these in physical locations (similar to the geotagging phenomenon) with tips on how to tackle trails, slopes etc, guidance on how to find particular areas of beauty and challenge that aren’t easy to locate unaided, chances for communities to each make their mark on locations as more of their members visit it to further share the experiences with each other even where they can’t meet up physically. We are experimenting with a number of these features and see great things to come in this space for a number of communities. It represents one of the foundational elements for creating hybrid outdoor experiences with disparate communities and is really exciting to be working on.

Lauren Greenaway

Senior Production Executive

Inspired Business Media