The Future of Consumer Data: Privacy, Technology and Transparency

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The rapid technological evolution over the past five years has created new challenges for advertisers that pose complex issues for consumer privacy. Of utmost concern for today’s consumers is the growth of personal data now available to advertisers. In a thought-provoking discussion of these issues, Sheila Colclasure, chief privacy officer of LiveRamp and Brad Weltman, vice president of public policy for the Interactive Advertising Bureau analyzed the future of consumer data and how companies should respond.

A common thread throughout the panel was the recent passage of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and its rather aggressive stance on the use of consumer data. As Weltman explained, CCPA is a transparency bill that gives California consumers the right to access their personal information and know what information is being collected, among other things.

Although CCPA only applies to California, it is significant due to its robust definition of personal information. Every piece of data, whether it be an email address or an individual’s browsing history, is included in the definition of this term. Consequently, many organizations are beginning to realize the need to assess all types of consumer information — and fast.

That’s because even though CCPA won’t take effect until January 1, 2020, starting on that day consumers will be allowed to request all their information dating back to January 1, 2019. According to Weltman, this means companies can’t start analyzing their data soon enough because doing so will expose essential insights.

“I think for every company you will figure, and you will decipher and learn inconsistencies. Really quantifying and knowing is really the important process,” Weltman said.

But perhaps more important than performing an inventory of all company data is implementing ethical data use and practices from the start. Colclasure spent considerable time discussing this idea and explained that every form of data use impacts an individual.

If companies are to act ethically, every piece of data must be interrogated, and every employee must be open to change. Above all, the human connection cannot be forgotten.

“You should apply all the human values. You’ve got to keep the individual human at the center of your data. If you reframe how you operate and keep the values to them in the center, you get it right,” Colclasure said.

As the thoughtful discussion came to a close, the two speakers took time to answer questions submitted by members of the audience. Of particular interest to the audience was how to assuage consumers’ fears and anger about personal data use. While both professionals admitted how challenging this can be, they offered two useful tips: explain data use policies in simple terms consumers can understand and be transparent from the start.

Establishing trust is much easier when consumers feel heard, understood and respected. If advertisers define difficult terms in common language and openly share what they do with personal data, it is likely consumers will be less wary of providing their information.

The future of consumer data is certainly one to watch as technology and advertisers’ targeting tactics continue to evolve. But if one thing is for sure, it’s that companies cannot afford to be complacent in this rapidly evolving environment.

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