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January 28, 2019

Why Marketers Have a Stake in Data Privacy Day

Brands have no choice but to join the conversation about consumer data privacy. On Data Privacy Day, let's challenge the way we approach personal data.

Rachel Haberman

January 28th is Data Privacy Day, a day meant to raise awareness of the importance of protecting personal information online and to foster dialogue among stakeholders about data privacy.

Those stakeholders aren’t only consumers or advocacy groups. Brands—and the marketers behind them—are in a unique position with regard to data privacy. Doing business in a digital world means that we’re constantly interacting with consumers’ data, whether we’re collecting it ourselves or relying on third parties. Marketers can’t help but have a stake in the data privacy conversation because, intentionally or not, our business practices are actively shaping it.

Marketing leaders have a choice to make. The path of least resistance is to wait until consumers force us to act and to let consumer trust erode in the meantime. That’s not an idle threat: we often talk about consumers voting with their wallets, but in this case they’re literally voting. Existing data privacy legislation like GDPR in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act, which goes into effect next year, is most likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Alternatively, we can get ahead of what consumers are beginning to demand from brands anyway and start practicing and advocating for data transparency. After all, when we take our own job descriptions out of the equation, it’s how we’d want our own data to be treated.

Towards a World of Data Transparency

Being completely open with consumers about how their information is being collected and used would do a lot more for brands than just avoiding ill will from consumers. Brands and consumers both have plenty to gain in a world of data transparency.

Today, a lot of consumer data is collected under the table, without the consumer’s knowledge or consent. As a result, it’s often outdated, inaccurate, or full of incorrect assumptions.

Imagine instead openly asking for consumer-consented first-party data in exchange for something the consumer values. Bringing that value exchange out into the open creates a mutually beneficial cycle: the consumer controls what data they choose to share, and the brand better understands the consumer and provides them a better, more relevant, more personalized experience, which the consumer rewards with their trust and their business.

Data Privacy Day is an opportunity to examine our own practices with regard to consumers’ personal data. Let’s challenge ourselves to reconceptualize personal information as a privilege consumers grant to our companies in exchange for value—a privilege we need to prove again and again that we deserve.

Rachel Haberman

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