Why brands should establish ethical principles for data collection

The internet of things is constantly collecting intimate data.

The internet of things is constantly collecting intimate data.

Data collected should provide value to all concerned parties

The Altimeter Group published “The Trust Imperative: A Framework for Ethical Data Use.” The report gathered information from several different sources to provide a well-rounded view of how consumers view data collection and how organizations are starting to rethink data collection practices.

Data collection is becoming more ubiquitous, thanks to the “internet of things” – thermostats, refrigerators, wearables, and of course smart phones, to name a few. Therefore, protecting consumer data, from encryption, to storage, to online marketing, is becoming a brand attribute.

Rethinking the digital cost-benefit analysis

The online marketing axiom, rooted in cost-benefit analysis, is that consumers will trade their personal data for perceived discounts. The internet provides consumers with free services – search engine, photo archive, social media networks, etc. – if the consumer shares personal, friend list or email information.

This appears to be a good deal on the surface. However, upon closer inspection, many organizations use data collection as a profit center, selling data to programmatic media firms, credit reporting operations, database marketing firms, and large retailers. In fact, there is so much consumer data for sale (over 1500 data points for each of the 500 million active internet users, most of them in the United States) that a precise mosaic of the consumer’s lifestyle, actions, interest, food preferences, and ailments can be purchased for marketing purposes.

If this comes as a shock, it shouldn’t be

Most Americans are resigned to the fact that there is nothing they can do to thwart the onslaught of data collection by marketers. This comes from a lack of understanding about digital marketing and a preconceived notion that the Federal Government is looking out for their best interests when it comes to their personal privacy rights.

Why brands should be worried

The internet of things is constantly collecting intimate data. This is changing the nature of data collection from something that requires action to something that just happens. Consequently, consumers are becoming more uncomfortable with how brands will use their data.

As the tension level rises around data collection, trust becomes a serious issue for brands. An Altimeter® survey of over 2000 consumers revealed that over 45% of those surveyed had little or no trust in how organizations use their data.

This lack of trust has a quantifiable effect on business performance. The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer survey of 33,000 general population respondents found that 63% of people that lack trust in an organization will refuse to buy products and services from it. 58% criticized the organization to friends or colleagues, and 37% shared negative opinions online.

The impact of distrust clearly affects revenue, reputation, and stock price.

How brands can benefit from ethical principles in data collection

Brands should establish principles for ethical data collection, beginning with the expectation that any data collected should deliver value to all concerned parties. This is a litmus test for any “go or no go” marketing initiatives.

A second principle that organizations should consider is data minimization, meaning what is the least amount of data needed to meet the marketing objective? By practicing minimization, brands promote more sustainable and less risky analysis.

To download the report “The Trust Imperative: A Framework for Ethical Data Use” click here.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Digital Ad Targeting – What Do Marketers Know About You?

Ad Technology: Programmatic Advertising

The challenges of “Big Data”

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Copyright: joebelanger / 123RF Stock Photo

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