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Reflecting on Ethical Data Use on Data Privacy Day

AcxiomJanuary 27, 2017

If there is any marketing industry topic deserving of its own designated day, it is Data Privacy Day. Every January 28, the National Cyber Security Alliance celebrates this event, which is becoming more important with each passing year.

As consumers, our digital footprints are growing larger every day. This is fueled by the rapid innovation of technology and our rapid adoption of connected devices. Just contrast something as simple as a morning routine from 20 years ago to today. Before, a consumer might wake up, brush their teeth, find out the weather from the TV and drive to work. Now, a consumer might wake up and check their sleep tracker wearable, brush their teeth with a smart toothbrush, ask their Amazon Echo for the weather forecast and summon a car with their smartphone.

This rate of data creation is accelerating as consumers fully embrace the conveniences of the Information Age. According to IDC, the digital universe will produce 35 zettabytes of data in 2020 — 44 times more than in 2009. How this data is collected, shared and applied has become increasingly complex, so much so that no consumer can be fully aware of the potential uses for this information. The burden has shifted to brands to be accountable for the ethical use of data that includes protecting consumer privacy, placing a vast responsibility on them to develop the processes and policies necessary for effective data stewardship.

Data Privacy Day has three themes that are critical to success in this new landscape: respecting privacy, safeguarding data and enabling trust. As we celebrate this meaningful event, I wanted to briefly touch on the importance of accountability as it relates to each theme.

Respecting Privacy

There are examples of data use regulations, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, that have worked effectively for a very long time as the arbiter (in this case for credit lending) of ethical data use. But today, the speed of innovation is so fast that it typically outpaces the rate at which lawmakers can pass effective regulation. To prevent harm to the consumer or damage to the brand, marketers need to self-regulate, asking data use and consumer-impact questions at a different inflection point – at the design phase – then implemented in the engineering layer.

Safeguarding Data

Most marketers would agree data is the most important marketing asset they have today. It is also often a business’ fastest-growing asset, and more marketers are quickly learning the value of activating their data outside the enterprise. Whether they are sharing with other brands or with martech partners, brands must take proper precautions to not only use data responsibly, but also ensure its safety and proper use downstream. Some important techniques to do this include effective anonymization and employing safe haven technologies.

Enabling Trust

The cost of breaking promises to the consumer is severe, as every consumer is empowered by the megaphone of social media. In today’s environment, a breach of trust with one customer will undoubtedly be broadcast to many others. To enable customer trust and build more transparency, marketers should put ethics at the heart of what they do with their data.

As we navigate this new environment together, let’s remember to follow the principles of Data Privacy Day every day, not just one day every January. For more insights, be sure to read our eBook, The New Codes of Conduct: Guiding Principles for the Ethical Use of Data.