Role Models in the Age of the Consumer Data Breach

In the era of GDPR, data breaches and news leaks, it’s an understatement to say that people are a little sensitive about their personal data. More than ever, people are aware that their data is being collected and used to tailor content and advertising to their interests. While many understand that data is the currency of the internet, and that the product is all the wonderful free content, not everyone thinks the value exchange is particularly fair. Some have even proposed that web users should be paid hundreds of dollars a month for their personal data.

With this as our backdrop, marketers look ahead to 2019 and another year of data-driven marketing and advertising. We need data, undoubtedly, to do our best work, but there are definitely potential pitfalls as we move forward, and few role models to look to. What are the best practices, and who’s doing it right?

Facebook Faux Pas

Facebook has certainly made a few blunders with its tremendous data trove. Its database was like the fullest and most beautiful henhouse ever – surrounded by hundreds of starving foxes. The Cambridge Analytica scandal shone a bright spotlight onto how much of our personal data Facebook actually had, and how poorly they were guarding it. Just last month, over 50 million accounts were hacked, even as the social media giant was supposedly improving security. As US Senator Mark Warner noted after the breach, “Today’s disclosure is a reminder about the dangers posed when a small number of companies like Facebook or the credit bureau Equifax are able to accumulate so much personal data about individual Americans without adequate security measures.”

And yet, Facebook continues to push the boundaries of permission and trust. A recent report in TechCrunch reveals that:

Instagram has been spotted prototyping a new privacy setting that would allow it to share your location history with Facebook. That means your exact GPS coordinates collected by Instagram, even when you’re not using the app, would help Facebook to target you with ads and recommend you relevant content. The geo-tagged data would appear to users in their Facebook Profile’s Activity Log, which include creepy daily maps of the places you been.

In a recent survey measuring how well consumers trust brands with their data, Facebook came in dead last. That Facebook would be so tone-deaf to these concerns and seek to collect user location information is actually shocking. If Facebook wants to remain the social media darling of higher-earning consumers, it needs to rethink its actions. We all understand that data is the key to advertising revenue, but without a loyal user base, Facebook won’t have a lot of value to anyone.

(And just to keep things equitable, Google hasn’t been much better lately.)

Apple Sets a Shining Example

In contrast to Facebook’s widely publicized missteps, Apple seems to take user privacy far more seriously. Apple CTO Tim Cook has long been an advocate for consumer security. The company recently made its data collection fully transparent by allowing users to see exactly what it had collected from them. A new tool allows users to download their data, allow users to edit their data, and even prevent Apple from collecting further data.

Apple is committed to collecting only the data it needs and keeping data out of the cloud where possible to protect users. As Cook said in a recent interview, “The narrative that some companies will try to get you to believe is: ‘I’ve got to take all of your data to make my service better.’ Well, don’t believe them…Whoever’s telling you that, it’s a bunch of bunk.”

If we’re going to assume that most brands want to earn and keep the trust of their users and customers, the obvious route to follow is Apple’s.

How to Proceed

Marketers need data. If we’re going to present relevant offers and content to our customers and prospects, we need to know what they want. However, we need to do that respectfully, accurately, and with their permission. These are simple best practices that every company – from Facebook, to Google, to your organization, to the corner pizzeria should be following. It seems inevitable that some GDPR-type regulations will be enacted in the USA and elsewhere, so even if your country doesn’t already have data privacy regulations, start marketing as if you do. Get in front of best practices, and start thinking like Tim Cook, if you can.

Best practices should include a focus on keeping fraudulent data out of your marketing. Blis’s SmartPin technology is one of the best ways to ensure the location data you activate in your campaigns is clean, safe, and honestly acquired. Blis applies a stringent set of filters to remove greater than 75 percent of bad data from our pools, and then additional proprietary filters to pull out the rest of it. We acquire our data from trusted partners to begin with, so our clients can be sure they’re getting the highest quality location data on the market.

For additional best practices, seem my recent blog post on The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Mobile Location Data.

Ultimately, it all comes down to common sense. How would you want your own data to be used? How would you want your favorite brands to reach you with the most relevant and valuable offers? Do unto others.

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