Today is National Data Privacy Day. Chances are if you work in marketing, you’ve probably heard the term “big data” ad nauseam. Much like “engagement,” “disruptor,” or “gamification,” this marketing buzzword is a surefire way to sound smart in a meeting—but it also holds some serious weight when it comes to compliance.
In short, “big data” is quite literally very large sets of data that marketers and researchers analyze to spot trends and patterns as they relate to human behavior. In theory, it’s a gold mine for marketers—understanding what their customers are thinking, where they’ll click next, and how to ultimately predict their wants and needs to drive sales. But after data privacy issues like Cambridge Analytica and phone providers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint caught selling location data of customers to private entities, the line for marketers between ethical and unethical, and legal and illegal, is very fine.
Here are four must-read tips for all digital marketers to ensure their tactics are up to snuff.
Consult the GDPR
Shortly after Cambridge Analytica’s issues, it became clear to lawmakers that little was being done to protect the public’s data. Enter the GDPR—an update to an existing set of laws that govern how companies collect and use data. Prior to its 2018 facelift, the regulations were last updated in the ‘90s.
While the rules are put forth by the European Union, they do not just apply to countries belonging to the organization, including the U.S. As of May 25, any company that fails to comply is at risk of a 20 million euro fine, or four percent of a company’s global revenue, depending on which is larger. Yikes.
Be mindful of anonymization
As companies and the government still navigate the waters of big data, it’s important for marketers to work with data scientists and market researchers to remove any information that could potentially identify a specific individual. When marketers have just one set of data, it’s pretty straight-forward as to what counts as personally identifiable information (PII).
But things get tricky when multiple, large sets of data are combined to reach a highly targeted audience. Because much of the technology used to mine big data also has the ability to sort so granularly, it’s becoming increasingly easier to piece once anonymized pieces of information back together from one or more datasets. Marketers should be extra careful that the audiences and data sets they’re using are truly general groups of people and don’t unveil any PII about individuals.
Owning vs. renting data
Marketers run into particular trouble when they’re renting target audience’s data as opposed to owning it. Not only are rented datasets accessible to competitors, but it can also be expensive and outdated. It also leaves a lot of room for questions about where the data was acquired from, if it was vetted, and whether it is compliant with the most up-to-date privacy laws.
“By owning data, organizations know the source of the data they’re collecting on consumers and can guarantee they’re collecting it from consenting individuals,” Jonathan Lacoste, Jebbit’s president and co-founder told CMSwire.com. “First-party data will not only become a way to comply with regulation, but also a significant competitive advantage.”
Marketers are constantly dealing with multiple sets of data, which often times lives in more than one place. Understanding where data lives, and how one system of information relates to another—also known as data-mapping—allows businesses to discover and classify information so that it can be protected and managed in a consistent, reliable way.
“By identifying every database, and every instance of it, you’ll know the full extent of all of the data that is being used and accessed,” writes Dataversity.net. “It’s also useful at this stage to literally map out every location, with arrows showing how data flows between them.”