Responsible data use and the winds of change

The winds of change are blowing with regards to the use of personal data. Headlines seem to highlight privacy concerns on a daily basis. Epsilon takes great strides to set high standards for ourselves, and, as leaders in the marketing industry, we facilitate conversations on responsible data use with legislators and our peers. Epsilon’s receipt of the Online Trust Alliance’s 2015 Online Trust Honor Roll—for the fourth consecutive year—is just the most recent indication of our deep commitment to respecting consumer privacy. We, as an industry, need to continue to use personal data responsibly and step up to continually evolve and respond to the changing winds.

First, we must set an industry-accepted definition on what  is meant by “personal data.” While certain data (names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.) is commonly recognized as personal data, other information falls within more of a gray area. If you post something on Facebook, who owns that content? If you visit a retail site and buy a new shirt, or visit a travel site and browse flights to Paris, who owns that information?

Once we agree to definitions, then we can move to the second step: we must agree as an industry how we will responsibly use the data. Moving forward, our focus needs to be – as it has been – on maintaining uniform standards in terms of compliance with and adherence to industry-wide restrictions on data collection and enablement. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has helped set the pace with regards to ethical business practices for many years while the online marketing industry has banded together under the Digital Advertising Alliance. These uniform standards help consumers understand how their data is used and their rights with the added benefit of steering the marketing industry to respond to the changing winds.

Responsible data use and collection brings value to consumers as relevant messaging helps the consumer find a product she has been searching for or provides a discount to try a new product that soon becomes the consumer’s favorite. It has been demonstrated time and time again that consumers want – and in many cases demand – a relevant message as opposed to one that is generic and impersonal.

Responsible data use also benefits marketers by lower costs associated with deploying campaigns. The marketing industry continues to grow and bring benefits to the entire economy. A recent study by the DMA estimates the value of the data-driven marketing economy in the United States at $156 billion in 2012 alone. So let’s focus on the bottom line: consumers want a relevant and personalized message but want us as marketers to be mindful of their privacy concerns.  Simple as that.