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The challenge of privacy

Everybody would agree privacy is a fundamental right of human beings. It is indispensable for each of us, but also for our democratic processes (think about what elections would look like if your vote was not private).

Yet, it is a quite recent invention in our history. There was no God of Privacy in the Antiquity. Greeks had rather a God of Surveillance, Argos Panoptes, who gave his name to the Panopticon, a type of prison of the 18th century where one single center guardian could watch in secret over hundreds of prisoners imprisoned in a circle around him. Today, we read sometimes that Google, Facebook, and the other internet giants are the Panopticons of our times, surveilling us around the clock without us being able to identify exactly when and where.

Even our businesses, at our level, could be accused of being small Panopticons and could therefore lose the trust of our consumers. What are really the risks? And what can we do about them?

    The Privacy Paradox

    The consumer himself is not facilitating the work of the brand on the subject of privacy: he knows that his privacy is being exploited, he feels like he is losing control of his data, and yet, at the same time he keeps:

    • Using loyalty cards
    • Giving up personal information to social networks
    • Accepting cookie notices without reading
    • Using the same passwords on several websites

    Clearly, consumers underestimate the value of their data. When searching something on the internet, they balance privacy with convenience and most of the time, tend to value convenience more. That’s because it is difficult to place a concrete value on privacy… until you are tangibly harmed.

    Shouldn’t brands take their responsibilities and try to proactively protect the consumer privacy, if he is not conscious of the risks he is taking?

    What is Privacy?

      To understand how to protect consumers, we must first understand what privacy is. Because privacy is complex. It is not black or white. It’s more that simple non-disclosure.

      As a consumer, I know that every potential merchant I visited has a lot of data about me. I am happy for them to use what they know to serve me better. But I really don’t expect them to share my data with others or use the data in other ways: I WANT TO DECIDE.

      And that is what privacy is about:

      Privacy is not non-disclosure,

      it is exercise of control.

      As a marketer, ethical application of privacy is not closing your eyes, it’s giving control to the consumer.

      Yet sometimes we act in ways which are removing control from the consumer’s hands.

      Modern risks of Privacy

      Picture this: a person goes to a party. His friends post photos from the party on Instagram. Now everyone knows he was there. Including people he didn’t want to tell. The person didn’t have an exercise of control.

      Similarly, we may use marketing tactics and technologies that remove control from the consumer. It’s our responsibility to identify them in order to stop them, for the sake of the consumer:

      • Are you publishing posts on social networks, asking your followers to tag their friends in comment? You will end up tying the friend’s name to your brand, even if this person didn’t intend too. He/they may find this offensive.
      • Are you using sensors, beacons, activity tracking to detect consumers in your shops? Are they aware of it? Did you explain it to them? Do they really have an exercise of control here?
      • You explained your consumers how you would protect their data, but what about their meta data? Are you protecting this data the same way? Think about such reasoning: “My app detected that the consumer was visiting a school every morning and evening of the week, so he certainly has children, Let’s show him ads related to children’s products”. Is it really part of the consumer expectations?
      • What about your app permissions? Are you asking reasonable access to the consumer? Make the test right now on your phone: which app has access to your physical activity? Certainly, your sports app, and this is normal. But what about the Amazon Shopping app? Is it relevant for Amazon to ask for your physical activity? Is it expected by the consumers? Check the permissions asked by your own app. Be sure you’re asking only what is necessary.

      Modern Privacy Solutions

      They are several ways to give more control to the consumer and allow him more privacy. Here are 3 quick tips:

      1. Use a platform build using the Privacy by Design principles

      You need to prove to your consumers that privacy is an important thing for you. And the best way to prove it is to use only tools which are built around the 7 principles of privacy by design. These principles ensure that privacy is taken into account since the conception phase of the product. It shows the consumers that you will take care of his data as if it were your own. Black Tiger Master Data Platform respects, of course these Privacy by Design principles.

      1. Don’t be afraid to add some random noise sometimes

      Why not close your eyes from time to time when personalizing? This way, you will regularly release the pressure on the consumer. And as a positive side-effect, you will generate discoverability & diversity.

      1. Make use of Preference Centers

      As already explained in our article on Informed Consent, giving the consumer access to a dashboard is a good way to let him decide what he accepts and what he refuses. This is the best way to let him exercise his control.

      Always remember that data privacy involves the ability an individual has to selectively:

      • share their data
      • retreat from interactions when he feels like it
      • control the image created by the data

      It is your responsibility to assist your customers on this privacy challenge. This is another way to create a strong bond with them and surpass your competition.

      See also : blog 1 – An introduction to data ethics blog 2 – What are ethics anyway? blog 3 – Ethical opportunities blog 4 – informed consent