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As data collected through the web, mobile devices, and the Internet of Things (IoT) increases exponentially, managing and respecting data privacy is a serious concern for consumers and a challenge for organizations.

Don’t Track Me, Bro!

Consumers have an increasing desire to not be tracked or control what is tracked. Data privacy is a far-reaching issue and consumers do care.

For organizations, privacy is too often a low priority because there is not a perceived urgency or upside, but the risk of major damage is high and underestimated. Organizations also underestimate the upside of increased user confidence as they recognize that you care about user privacy.

How Companies Track You

There are a variety of ways that companies collect data using 3rd party cookies, 1st party cookies, local storage, browser fingerprinting, and IP address.

You can test your own browser fingerprinting results here.

Why Companies Track You

Simply put, companies track you in order to gain information that will help them increase revenue and profit. Advertisers want to know more about you so they can:

  • Increase the relevancy of their ads
  • Reach more potential customers
  • Know when not to show you ads and save money

Analytics, user experience, and personalization teams want to collect data about you to understand what’s working well and what isn’t to make websites, apps and other interfaces easier to use. Ideally, they want to create an experience that is easy to use and personalized to your interests, which will make you want to share your data.

What Can Be Tracked?

A plethora of information about you can be tracked including:

  • Who you are (e.g. name, gender, race, age, weight, heart rate, government ID)
  • What you did (e.g. education, career, criminal record, press, awards, credit score)
  • What you like (e.g. political party, social groups, entertainment, brand affinity)
  • What you have (e.g. income, home, car, devices, clothing, jewelry, investments)
  • What you do (e.g. keystrokes, gestures, eye movement, TV viewing)

What Should Marketers Do About Data Privacy?

There is an opportunity for companies to differentiate based on how they handle their customers’ data and privacy.

Companies who choose to take privacy seriously, and provide real value to their customers based on what they know about them, will rise above others who do not.

Other areas of focus should include:

  • Providing great experiences
  • Assuring trust in how data is handled
  • Being transparent in privacy policies
  • Giving consumers choice and control

Let’s focus on the last bullet since that’s where companies tend to fall woefully short.

Do Not Track (DNT)

One technology is Do Not Track (DNT), a browser setting exposed via JavaScript that is supported by all modern browsers. The setting is OFF by default, as it should be.

“The signal sent MUST reflect the user’s preference, not the choice of some vendor, institution, site or network-imposed mechanism outside the user’s control; this applies equally to both the general preference and exceptions.” -W3C Standards on DNT

There are issues with DNT though, including the fact that there is no legislation in the United States to enforce it and most advertisers do not honor the DNT setting. Overall, it has good intentions but accomplishes little.

Opt-Out Technology

An alternative technology is Opt-Out, which is available via plugins, browser settings, or website controls. When a customer explicitly opts out of technology it is expected to be honored 100%. Opt-Out can also be set at a granular level and tied to a single technology or specific website.

Opt-Out is robust, as it targets both 3rd-party advertising technology and web analytics tools.

The overall message is to be a better marketer by proactively increasing your customers’ access to their privacy options. Your users are real people like you and me who care about their privacy.

We suggest you do it before you get bad PR that is sure to damage your brand.

How We Helped Ensure Privacy

At Blast Analytics & Marketing, we recently went through this very process of increasing privacy controls for consumers for one of the most visited sites on the internet., the flagship site of the Affordable Care Act, had previously received negative press in the area of consumer privacy and therefore made transparency and consumer options a high priority.

Read the full Data Privacy Blog Post for our solution to this challenge, and further takeaways on data privacy. Or, download the Case Study.

Post Author

Hilary Noonan
Hilary is the Director of Content at Tealium.

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