skip to main content

Just Because You Can – Should You???

AcxiomSeptember 17, 2015

Sensors, cameras and other devices are changing the way data is collected and used at an unbelievable rate.  As discussed in our recent blog The Good, Bad and Ugly of Aging Privacy Laws, guidance, either in the form of laws or industry codes, isn’t keeping up with the rate of change.  The burden for making sound ethical decisions about what data a marketer collects and how they use it to improve their marketing ROI and create loyal happy customers, and who they share it with, has fallen on marketers themselves.  Many marketing departments are unprepared to make these decisions.

Some of the more often overlooked areas where marketers should be careful are:

  •  When licensing 3rd party data, be sure to use reputable sources. Data is easy to collect in ways that aren’t as transparent to the consumer as they should be and may even violate posted website policies.  Check out the company you are buying data from to be sure they are collecting the data in an ethical manner. If they won’t or can’t answer your questions, beware.
  •  Understand the rules around re-identifying data that has been anonymized.  In the online and mobile space, industry codes of conduct call for opt-in consumer consent to re-identify data from 3rd parties that was initially collected anonymously.  Your company may have a means to re-identify the data where the promise of anonymity should be honored.  Read contracts with your data sources carefully and help 3rd party data providers keep their promises to consumers.
  •  Be careful to avoid discriminatory practices. The FTC has spoken a number of times in recent years about big data and the potential for discrimination, even unintentionally.  Ask yourself if your products and how you market them could fall into this trap.  Don’t exclude any minority or protected class from a benefit – intentionally or unintentionally.  To understand more about this issue read the speech given by FTC Chairwoman Ramirez at a Media Institute event https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_statements/308421/140508mediainstitute.pdf
  •  Be thoughtful about the language you use and the message it sends to customers. Sophisticated analytics provides marketers the tools to develop all kinds of predictive data – when an individual prefers to shop, what channels they like to use, what products they may be interested in. However, marketers must remember that these insights are predictive, not guaranteed.  Not everyone in a given segment will respond well to the offer delivered based on a predictive model.  Be sure that the language in your marketing message takes into account that some people in the segment, do NOT fit the profile.  Don’t anger this group in trying to win over those who do fit.

Too often marketers aren’t particularly knowledgeable about all the industry codes of conduct and best practices that apply to 3rd party data, and which should be honored when they take possession of it.  Be sure to review your contracts with 3rd parties who license data to you and get your privacy team and your service vendors, who do understand the industry guidelines, engaged.

At Acxiom we have a longstanding tradition of saying, ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.’  Don’t be shy about seeking out the help and guidance critical to understanding what you shouldn’t be doing with data.