When the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke out in early 2018, it sparked a series of discussions about data privacy. The debates got stronger as more and more news broke out on the misuse of personal data from Facebook profiles for political ends. The scandal has fundamentally changed the way users see data privacy, and it has put a question mark on what it can mean for the future of privacy and digital marketing.
The effects of this privacy awakening are reflected in official regulations — like the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), created to protect EU citizens from data breaches, and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), designed to give users more control over their personal data — and in the increase of interest in privacy-focused solutions. DuckDuckGo, a search engine that protects user data, has recently celebrated 50 million private searches a day, and Ghostery, a browser extension that blocks tracking, has more than seven million active users per month.
As concerns over privacy rise among customers and companies, so does the tension between the demand for data privacy and the consumer appetite for customized marketing. According to a study on online privacy by Statista, 78% of users feel uncomfortable with companies being able to purchase personal data for online advertising purposes, and around 80% of users don’t want companies sharing their data for more targeted advertising.
In this scenario, what does the new privacy era mean for the future of digital marketing? Here is what five experts in the area had to say.
Jeremy Tillman, President, Head of Product & Marketing at Ghostery.
Created in 2009, Ghostery offers apps and browser extensions that detect and block third-party data-tracking technologies, and it went mainstream after being recommended by Edward Snowden. Here is the expert view shared by Jeremy Tillman, Ghostery’s president:
“In the future, digital marketers will have to balance demand for greater privacy with the business goals of their companies. In some ways, marketers will have more data in the future, with IoT [Internet of Things] devices creating both new data sources and marketing channels. However, they will also face more constraints, including not only privacy regulations such as GDPR or California Consumer Privacy Act but also growing privacy concerns from the public at large. Embracing privacy-friendly marketing techniques that don’t require personal data will diversify a marketer’s tool belt and help her adapt to the shifting digital landscape.”
Kristina Podnar, Digital Policy Consultant.
“The increased awareness around user data privacy, coupled with robust data protection regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, LGDP [Brazil’s General Data Protection Law], and POPIA [South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act], means that the days of unlimited use of big data are over. Instead, digital marketers and the digital marketing landscape need to pivot and adopt a new paradigm, one where user data is obtained in exchange for delivered value.
“We’ve seen a maturation in digital marketing from ‘spray and pray’ to user-centric message delivery. The same evolution is happening in privacy where organizations will have to invest in privacy protection, security, and precise value delivery to obtain a user’s data. With the foundation of trust and clear articulation of the value proportion, organizations will partner with users to deliver marketing, but in a highly personalized and often user-led [way].”
Debra Cabrera, Marketing Faculty Member F.I.U.
A creative marketing professional with a passion for connecting with consumers in multi-national markets, Debra Cabrera uses her experience and vision to share how privacy can be part of a marketing strategy. Here is her expert advice:
“Thank you, Cambridge Analytica, for bringing up the issue of data misuse. What’s the difference between data privacy and security, since they are so closely related? Privacy is about controlling the flow of personal information and the right to control how ones’ information is shared with others via digital channels. Data security, on the other hand, takes the concept of privacy a step further by focusing on the safety of that information.
“While consumer expectations may be overarching, handling data privacy and security are often two distinct tasks for companies. Enter Consent-Based Marketing (AKA, gated offers). These are promos designed to target a particular group based on their life stage, occupation, or affiliation. How does this work? Brands can create personalized promos that appeal to a target segment and the buyers decide to opt-in to receive it. There is a sense of belonging & personalization without concerns of violating privacy laws or customer trust. It’s a win-win for digital marketing. So, what’s the solution? To create promotions that are personal and give buyers control over when they share their data and engage with your brand. (There is always a workaround).”
Tomáz Utreras Lopez, Digital Project Manager
Specialized in Digital Project Management, Digital Marketing, and Analytics, Tomáz Utretras Lopez analyzes how Facebook changed the conversation around privacy and how it is time for users to take back control. Here is his talented view:
“Our lives no longer belong to us; nobody is going to deny that the Internet and social networks like Facebook have drastically changed the way we interact. However, the power of social networks goes beyond this; they own the most precious thing we have, our privacy. Mark Zuckerberg published a kind of the ‘State of the Union Address’ addressed to the users of his social network. The ‘post’ went viral at the time, and some media soon baptized it as ‘The Manifesto.’ Titled ‘Building Global Community,’ the publication consists of almost 6,000 words that can be summed up in a couple of sentences: Facebook is so powerful that it is time to take advantage of its reach to create a new social infrastructure and lay the foundations of a supranational global community that serves the common good. The intention of Facebook is to create their own currency, ‘Libra,’ they already own the information of more than 1790 million people. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people are still waking up in the morning and the first thing they do is open this Social Network. I think it is time to recover our privacy and take power back from the giants of the digital industry before they take over everything.”
Marlene Ruano, Marketing Professional
Based in Miami, Florida, Marlene Ruano is a marketing professional who sees the concern over privacy as a positive thing for marketers: a way to build trust with consumers and provide more insightful content. Here is her sharp perspective:
“Technology has advanced so quickly that many companies have taken advantage of personal data information collected. However, based on previous data breaches, misuse, and unauthorized sharing of information, consumers are fighting back on how their personal information is collected and used. This has pressed governments to tighten consumer privacy laws and enact new ones, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). With these laws in effect, it will be a challenge for digital marketers to collect individual information. Yet, in the long run, it will benefit companies in the fact that they will be able to receive quality and reliable data. Now more than ever, consumers are looking for brands they can trust, and putting data privacy and protection on the forefront will allow marketers to customize and personalize marketing campaigns that will drive customer loyalty and trust.”
Privacy as a tool for informed decisions
It is clear from the experts’ perspectives that privacy is now an essential aspect of the relationship with customers. The future of digital marketing will have to address privacy, as more data becomes available from a variety of devices — from home assistants to smart security systems — at the same time as consumers grow more aware of the value of their data.
Privacy concerns are not going away, but they also don’t represent the end of data-driven marketing personalization. Brands will have to work harder to build and maintain customer confidence, and they must be transparent about what data is being collected and how that data is being used — including monetization of the database.
This new reality, in essence, means that marketers need to accept their responsibility for user data. Marketers should give control to customers, who must have a say in how their data is used and in the level of customization they want in exchange. Embracing privacy as a value can become a differential from the competition and still result in great marketing.