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Ethical Data Practices All Marketers Should Live By

November 7th, 2017   ||    by Todd Wasserman   ||    No Comments

Equifax’s recent data breach and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have thrust the issue of ethical data practices to the fore. And Apple’s Face ID—which uses facial recognition to unlock a user’s iPhone—has also prompted concerns about data privacy.

Even as these developments take shape, marketers have continued trying to leverage their existing data to the fullest. The U.S. currently lacks the equivalent of the sweeping GDPR regulation, which puts limits on the amount of consumer data businesses can own.

However, 74 percent of Americans questioned said it was “very important” for them to be in control of who can get information about them, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey. And 91 percent thought they’d lost control of how their personal information is collected and used by companies.

What’s Your Code?

For marketers, the question of how to handle consumer data hinges on their ethical stance on the issue coupled with its practicality. While each company creates its own philosophy about the handling of such data, there are some universal truths all marketers can follow.

The Data & Marketing Association (DMA) offers a code of conduct for handling consumer data. The following list of ethical data practices is informed by that code and experts’ advice for consumer data collection:

  • Be transparent: Offers to consumers should be clear and honest. Consumers should know exactly what they’re paying for and if there will be any subsequent charges. The wording of such offers should be consistent across all platforms in which they’re presented. Any photos and artwork of the product or service should be accurate and reflect what’s actually being offered.
  • Be accessible: One frustrating aspect of Internet marketing for consumers is that they’re often dealing with a faceless entity. Offers should include the marketer’s name and street address or phone number (or both). If email is the only contact option (which is usually the case these days), the marketer should follow the DMA’s guidelines for such communications. The DMA advocates that email communications be executed with the consent of the user and that the marketer must heed a consumer’s request to end email communications.
  • Offer consumers a simple choice: The wording for such offers should be clear, and the option for consumers should be simple: opt in or opt out.
  • Let consumers access their data: Consumers realize their data is valuable and that they’re typically receiving “free” services by trading their information. But to fully understand such transactions, consumers should have access to their data to understand what type of data has been collected.
  • Employ reasonable security practices: The Equifax breach was the result of not installing a patch at the right time and was entirely preventable, according to WIRED. A reasonable security practice would assume patches are installed promptly and that the company is staying abreast of the latest threats in order to protect consumer data.
  • Take extra efforts when dealing with minors’ data: If your audience is under age 13, take heed of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires parental consent for all data collection.


Boom—Not Bust

Data (as many have noted) is the oil of the new economy. But marketers endanger access to such information when they abuse the public’s trust. Following these guidelines should help marketers ensure they’re on the right side of this issue. Within the TV broadcast industry, where data plays an enormous role, companies like Videa are already taking the security of that data very seriously. They achieve this in part by setting up internal checks and balances in order to monitor and control data usage and detect potential breaches.

As new technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) become the norm, maintaining a trust-based relationship with consumers is all the more critical.

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