Smart Marketers Are Asking – Who’s Got My Data?

With drones buzzing around in more and more places, the NSA recording every communication they can find, and massive data breeches in the news seemingly every week, we all can run the risk of becoming desensitized to the topics of privacy and security, or resigned to the inevitability of the end of privacy as we once knew it.  But alas, our devices and systems create more and more data every day.  As professionals we’re sworn to protect it, and protect it we must.
Marketers are taking advantage of the full array of channels available for people to respond to an offer.  As these behaviors happen, marketers are actively and passively listening, and yes, creating more data.  The kinds of data created when responders visit websites, even when they may not know they are creating it, can be surprising.  As consumers become increasingly aware of the information these interactions create, concern over the marketer’s policies to protect the privacy and security of the data created will come under increasing scrutiny.  Buyers of marketing services are wise to carefully consider what data their programs create, who has custody of the data now or may in the future, and privacy and security controls that exist in the systems they rely on.
For example, something that would surprise many is that when someone visits a website from a mobile device, clever marketers can capture a unique ID that all mobile devices have and record it to a database.  Even if the visitor doesn’t share additional information, data created from other sites they’ve visited previously could be shared with other sites visited later and linked by their device ID.  This is one reason marketers need to be sure they know if their responder data can be shared with other entities, and why understanding their own privacy policy and that of their partners is very important.  Understanding the full chain of custody of responder data, and how it is protected at each point is critical.
There are even IP Targeting services leveraged by many of the larger consumer marketing organizations using sophisticated geolocation databases containing the IP address of consumers’ home computers (or network devices) and a physical address associated with that IP address.  Marketers can now use this service to target banner ads to users in that home as they visit their favorite websites from their home computers, triggered by their originating IP address.  Now you know how they do that!  Amazing stuff, huh?!
Now before we all panic, let’s remember that these are marketing processes after all, and if those banner ads happen to feature relevant engaging offers for products the target may want to buy, and privacy best practices are attended to, these tactics create value for all parties involved.  The point is that forces at work in the marketing ecosystem would surprise a lot of people.  Smart marketers should be aware of privacy and security issues surrounding these processes, and most importantly work with partners they trust to help keep them on the right path.

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