Marketing and advertising executives have been using analytics for some time to understand audiences and target their communications. But, the rapid emergence of big data, while clearly demonstrating obvious value for consumers and businesses alike, has sparked concerns over the ethical use of consumer data in modern multi-channel marketing. In this fast-evolving environment where the law often lags behind practices, the absence of relevant ethical guidelines has led to anxiety among consumers and confusion among marketers — who are among the most aggressive users of data and are often the quickest to adopt new data related technologies.
Last September Acxiom hosted a private event that included industry, think tanks, privacy advocates and regulators to discuss how we might help establishing more ethical guidelines for marketing practices. The event focused on three main areas for discussion where gaps in ethical guidelines exist in the United States and abroad:
• Sharing data for marketing and advertising purposes (both personally identifiable information and anonymous information)
• Using sensitive data for marketing and advertising purposes
• Applying robust analytics (e.g., big data analytics) for marketing and advertising purposes
During the day-long series of sessions, discussions, and presentations relating to these focal points, the group identified five distinct areas where stronger ethical marketing guidance is needed, and developed the following broad recommendations (which we are discussed in greater detail and we hope you will read in the whitepaper):
1. Maximize transparency and choice. Privacy policies of marketers must be clearer about the use and sharing of consumer data.
2. Classify data and mitigate use risks. Marketing data should be classified to identify various types of risks, and appropriate mitigations for these risks should be put in place.
3. Limit downstream risks. Data brokers should have contracts with all downstream users of the data to ensure it is always used appropriately.
4. Help enforce ethical practices. Everyone in the marketing ecosystem should assist regulatory authorities in enforcing ethical practices by reporting bad actors to the appropriate enforcement bodies.
5. Educate consumers about common marketing practices. The marketing industry should support and engage in developing education for consumers about common marketing practices.
The ethical guidance needed in today’s multi-channel marketing continues to grow. We encourage you to engage with your trade associations and self-regulatory organizations to promote expanded guidance in these important areas.