Maintaining Data Privacy in a Data Driven World

It’s no secret that as consumers, we all sometimes enter into blind bargains through our use of free products in the online marketplace. As we discussed in this blog post, we trade our personal information for free access to widgets, games, mobile apps, and more, without reading—or understanding—exactly what will be done with our data.  

Consumers are used to hearing that their data is being used in marketing. Sometimes say they don’t like it, some don’t care because they know that it’s a part of life now. Of course, this should be transparent to the consumer, but many of the apps available to us are collecting this information and consumers are putting convenience over privacy.

As a marketer, you need to ensure that the person on whom you’re collecting data knows you’re doing so. They should understand that by visiting your site and filling out a form, you will put a tracking mechanism on their computer or sending them an email or look at their inbox for online purchase receipts. You need to be hyper transparent to site visitors on how to remove or opt out of tracking, delete or change the data that you have one them, or unsubscribe from an email.

Knowing every letter of every law, however, is excessive for many. What marketers need to know are the guidelines common to most privacy laws. Here are five best practices:

Transparency. Telling people how you are collecting their data and what you’re going to do with it are two things that marketers should have been doing all along. Informing people how their data will be used to personalize content to their specific interests is a much more successful and sustainable policy than withholding information from prospects.

Consensual activity. Marketers must realize that if they are engaging in cross-border marketing, they now need approval from the recipient. The change isn’t drastic; it requires little more than a webpage field that asks, “Can I send you something, yes or no?” For marketers, this is actually good news because emails won’t be wasted on people who don’t have a genuine interest.

Relevancy. Contacting only the people who want to be contacted and sending only the information they want is the heart of relevancy. It’s also a major component of privacy. Avoiding the “I didn’t want this” spam button click reaction was once key to staying off blacklists; soon it may be part of staying out of the courtroom. The requirement for consent is a foundation for relevancy, but even after gaining a recipient’s consent, the burden lies on marketers to send relevant content.

Adaptability of privacy policies. Laws can go only so far in defining acceptable privacy policies. To truly serve and protect people, organizations should be able to address privacy concerns at any point in a marketing process. The concept known as Privacy by Design asserts that the future of privacy cannot be assured solely by compliance with regulatory frameworks; rather, privacy assurance must become an organization’s default mode of operation, ideally. Privacy by Design presents a set of “foundational principles” that can help companies innovate in ways that are consistent with Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs).

Clarity. Fine print and legalese should be a dead practice for marketers. The need for transparency, consent, and relevancy can be undermined by unclear terms, confusing jargon, or complicated clauses. People are much more apt to share data and continue receiving emails and other marketing messages when they understand what is going on. You can no longer assume that stating in your privacy policy what you are doing with a person’s information is sufficient. You need to be “hyper transparent” when you’re collecting, transferring, and processing Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Take as an example our Organizer product:

  • We ask you to put your own email address in the box, rather than pre-filling the field.
  • We state up front what we are doing with the data you give us permission to have.
  • We link to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy so you can read more than just the hyper transparent information.
  • We don’t pre-check the “I agree” box.
  • We require you to make the choice yourself by checking the box.

Instead of the 7,000-word privacy policies hidden behind links at the bottom of a page that we’re used to seeing, a registration page should offer a few simple bullet points that explain the policy with transparency up front. For example:

  • I am giving my email address because I want to receive marketing emails from you.
  • I understand you might share my address with “X Company” because they offer relevant information.
  • I understand that you will collect “X” data when I interact with you online, and these people will have access to that information.

These points are compelling, but what else do marketers have to gain by complying with privacy laws and best practices? Email marketing success, increased ROI, and ultimately, improved revenue from the email channel.

As fundamental as it sounds, keeping prospects and consumers happy should always be top of mind for marketers. Today, there is no reason not to comply with privacy rules and regulations. The laws and best practices are designed to satisfy and protect the people involved, while also affording organizations the potential to grow revenue and client base.

Think of it this way, a happy customer tells three friends. An unhappy customer tells Google. What this translates to is for every one email sent to a happy and well-informed recipient, there exists the possibility of additional word-of-mouth referrals. Or, in other words, it can literally pay to respect the privacy, consent, and intelligence of a client or prospect.

Compliance drives demand, leads, and revenue.

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