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The Marketer's Role in Privacy Discussions

The Marketer's Role in Privacy Discussions

Many executives and corporate leaders hold the belief that marketing departments should have a limited role in matters of customer privacy.

According to this perspective, marketers should solely manage customers' perceptions of privacy, while actual data security decisions should rest with the information technology department, and privacy-related choices should be overseen by legal teams.

However, marketing professionals bring practical expertise and techniques to the discourse on data privacy that can effectively curtail the collection of consumer information without diminishing its utility.

The Pitfall of Exclusion

Excluding marketers from data collection decisions can lead companies to gather excessive information, thereby heightening the risks associated with customer exposure. 

In 2021, the T-Mobile data breach exposed the personal information of over 50 million customers. The breach involved the unauthorized access of sensitive data, including names, Social Security numbers, addresses, and other personal details.

The incident highlighted the vulnerability of individuals' personally identifiable information (PII) and the potential consequences of such breaches, including identity theft and fraud.

T-Mobile took immediate steps to address the breach and enhance its cybersecurity measures, while the incident underscored the ongoing challenges companies face in protecting customer data from cyber threats.

So that was 2021. Ancient history? Not close. They've had two breaches this year (2023) already.

But what if a marketing leader had been involved, to begin with? They deal in digital, after all. When these crises occur, it's too little too late, but that may be where most marketers initially lend value.

Privacy of Stored Data

Marketers can provide valuable insights for safeguarding privacy after data collection. For instance, in the healthcare sector, electronic medical records (EMRs) are often aggregated and anonymized to conduct large-scale medical research.

This aggregation allows researchers to analyze patterns, trends, and treatment outcomes across a diverse patient population.

Done right, marketers can leverage this data and repurpose its insights, informing precise communication and relevant campaigns.

Similarly, educational institutions might aggregate student performance data to identify curriculum improvements.

However, this aggregation process can also pose challenges, as it may inadvertently mask individual variations or specific insights, limiting the precision of targeted interventions and potentially leading to biased conclusions.

Bottom line? It's complicated. And you need a professional who knows the ins and outs of personas and human behavior to weigh in. 

The Power of Perception and Protection

Marketing research has shed light on improving perceptions of privacy and bolstering privacy protection.

Improved privacy perceptions lead to increased data-sharing willingness, brand trust, and responsiveness to marketing initiatives.

To enhance protection, firms can adapt data processing protocols to amplify privacy without sacrificing insights.

Marketers can apply these techniques during data collection, post-collection, or both phases.

The Theoretical Perspective

Privacy-enhancing alterations to customer data are common practice. Analysts vouch for "differential privacy," creating data with controlled inaccuracies to prevent individual identity disclosure. However, existing differential privacy methods might render data useless for practical marketing applications.

Emerging methodologies like shuffling algorithms and generative adversarial networks offer a solution by incorporating marketers' information needs into the protection process.

These methods ensure that synthetic data maintain valuable insights while adhering to privacy requirements. 

Companies must align privacy policies with the potential use of data, considering its usefulness. The concept of "differential privacy" is deemed optimal by theorists. However, current implementations can result in data that lacks practicality for marketing purposes.

The World Runs on Data

Novel methodologies allow data protectors to explicitly incorporate marketers' information requirements into the privacy process. This approach ensures that synthesized data retains its value while adhering to privacy guidelines. 

Rather than sidelining marketers from privacy discussions, they should lead data protection and privacy initiatives. Excluding marketers can lead to data overload, while decisions made without marketing insights might compromise valuable information. Marketers not only convey privacy assurances to consumers but also manage public relations following data breaches, making them intrinsically motivated to uphold brand promises.


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