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Data Privacy and What it Means for Marketers

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Internet users will probably find the following as an all-too-common scenario. After making an online search for a product or service and viewing some suggestions from Google, they get served with related offers or ads. When they go to their social news feed, they see the same ads related to their recent Google search.

If they’re interested enough, they might just click on the related content or ad that they just saw. Thanks to web tracking and ad placement networks, websites can serve relevant ads to users based on their online behavior (even if it’s on a completely different domain).

This situation gives a glimpse of how the internet collects information from online users’ activities, and how it casts a shadow over information security or data privacy. Essentially, data privacy relates to how information that users submit over the internet should be handled. The idea is that your business should only utilize user data to serve your customers better – nothing more, nothing less.

Data Privacy Through the Years

Data privacy measures have been in place since the 1890s, although the focus at the time was limited to offline data. It wasn’t until the 1980s when data protection relating to the use of computers in processing business transactions that involved customers’ personal data became a global initiative. At the height of the campaign, the European Union established the Data Protection Act, which is now known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The regulation pushes for people’s control over their personal data, while giving businesses a level playing field. The GDPR Commission believes that data can be a valuable asset, which companies across sectors can use to conduct their business.

Data Privacy Implications in Marketing

Data privacy can be a touchy subject matter, especially for consumers. There’s that dilemma between wanting personalization on the type of content, interactions, and recommendations that they receive from businesses and craving protection over what, how, or where their personal information is used.

Apparently, this particular concern of online users is a legitimate one. Take the case of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal. To give you some background, a third-party app developer was able to capture the personal data of Facebook users who installed a personality quiz app through their Facebook account. The app developer managed to hand over the data of affected Facebook users without their consent to Cambridge Analytica, a voter-profiling company in the UK.

There’s also the political angle that the breach influenced the state of the US and UK politics at the time, which only shows that businesses’ use of data may no longer be limited to marketing purposes alone.

Sadly for Facebook, the world’s largest social media site learned a lesson about misusing individuals’ personal data the hard way. Since news about the data breach got out, Facebook has been under scrutiny for having a hand in what’s considered a large-scale political debacle relating to data privacy.

How Your Marketing Team Should Handle Customer Data

Considering that both your business and your customers have a stake in using data, your company should draw up some guidelines on how to utilize your customers’ personal data in your marketing activities. Here are some ideas worth considering:

  • Use data to help customers in their buying journey.

It should be clear to your team that personal data should only be used to deliver personalized marketing messages and experiences as prospects engage with your brand. It’s a grave offense to use data for any other purpose that’s not designed to serve the interests of the customer, which you can identify if you’re doing your marketing data analytics right.

  • Allow your site visitors to tailor their privacy settings.

Users of your site should be able to tick off specific criteria in their privacy settings based on their preferences as well as which standards are acceptable to them. Avoid serving them with default settings without giving them a way out of it. Always give them a choice! You can easily accomplish this with a simple opt-out link in your emails.

  • Be transparent with your data privacy policies.

Often, customers skip the lengthy privacy policy section of the websites that they visit because they all look the same anyway or because they’re too complicated to read, only for this lackluster approach toward data privacy to backfire in the end.

That said, you should make it easy for your own site’s users to know and understand exactly how your company intends to use their data. Use plain, simple language in laying down the terms and conditions of your data privacy policy, making sure that you explain potentially unfamiliar terms and phrases to them.


Data Privacy in the Modern Age

We’re living in a time where collecting or accessing data is as easy as a few clicks on our computer. However, this doesn’t give anyone the license to use someone’s data as he or she pleases. This couldn’t be more important for marketers like you, as real-world events are already showing how misusing customer data can have serious implications for the business.

What tactics does your company utilize to protect user data?

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