With GDPR finally on the books, I’ve been thinking a lot about the core issues of this truly global data regulation. Last month, I dove into how anxiety about —building back-end data hubs and intuitive frontend to empower staffers to interact with data and solve business problems.

Ultimately, GDPR forces organizations to think about the “people data” in their systems in a humanistic way. It’s as if, after three decades of the internet and ten years of smartphones, people have said, “You can have my information, just treat me like a person.”

Defining human data

Human data can conjure images of biometrics—a heart rate during a bike ride, a fingerprint that unlocks a phone. But that data, which is easily captured and crunched, speaks only to our physicality, not to the nuanced, social aspects of humanity.

Human data, on the other hand, exists as nonnumerical, unstructured data sets. It comes from online surveys and social media posts; it says something about your personality, which is why big data sometimes .

just as much as they can . They beg to be respected as much as the person who created them.

The business case for human data

Viewed through this prism, human data seems like an obvious choice for a business’s focus. In today’s commercial climate, where an online retailer doesn’t profit from a customer until he or she has shopped there four times, retention and brand loyalty make the difference. What company wouldn’t want to know its customers better than they know themselves?

Yet the trend of the digital world has been to reduce people to identifiers. One strain of thought holds that people are best classified by “thing data”: what product did they buy, when did they buy it, where were they when they bought it, where did they have it shipped, and so on.

if that capability is already part of your business model because it’s good business practice? The ability to comply with GDPR is really just a signal that a business has a , 360-degree view of its customers—the baseline for understanding them, marketing to them, and using sophisticated Artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to achieve rational business ends that involve them, rather than just toying with their data because they can.

Human data for everyone

“Human data” isn’t just about customers but people—employees, marketers, and suppliers. Behind every application and web browser is a person interacting directly or implicitly with another person, each of whom wants a reasonable balance of security and access over their data. Above all, human data is about respecting that data has become so important to people’s livelihood—their credit scores just as much their personalities—that it shouldn’t be treated differently than they would be treated.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network.