As Mark Zuckerberg prepared to testify in front of Congress, the public at large held its collective breath. No matter what side of data you’re on — whether you’re a Facebook user who is miffed about having your personal (and, you thought, private) information sold for a substantial profit, a marketer that relies on third-party data for consumer marketing and advertising efforts, or a company, like Deluxe, that supplies it — it’s clear to everyone that there’s a something roiling around out there within the Big Data ocean.
It all came to light in March when the story broke about how Facebook user data was sold to the political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica without user knowledge or consent, and then said data was used to skew the U.S. presidential election in favor of Donald Trump (or at least attempt to do so).
It was a cataclysmic event that instantly turned Big Data into Big Brother in the minds of a lot of people, with Mark Zuckerberg as the man behind the curtain. Talk about privacy, consent, and transparency erupted in office break rooms, on political news programs, and in company board rooms nationwide, leading people to wonder if jumping down the rabbit hole of Big Data was a good idea after all. There is an outcry for regulations signaling the fact that online data’s rules, or lack thereof, are about to change.
In the wake of all of this, Facebook announced it was discontinuing the Partner Categories program, which has let marketers use data brokers like Acxiom, Epsilon and Experian to target ads based on consumer information like purchasing activity, online searches and life transitions.
If you’ve built your 2018 marketing and advertising plan around this kind of consumer data and hired a gaggle of data analytics pros to help you wrangle all of this consumer information, you’re probably thinking: “Now what?”
The first thing is, don’t panic. This is a hot-button issue right now and everyone is uncertain about how it’s ultimately going to play out. But in the end, increased transparency and regulation of what companies can and can’t do with consumer data will be a good thing. As consumers we’ll all be happy to have increased control regarding our privacy and how our information is used as well.
Data is not the enemy and it is here to stay
Data is a powerful tool in the marketing arsenal. By itself, data is harmless, but when combined with analytics it creates highly valuable insights that can change how you market your products or services.
When used properly, data enhances the customer experience, drives stronger ROMI, and increases customer retention and loyalty. It’s a win-win for both customers and companies. If you’re not embracing and utilizing the power of data, you’ll be left behind.
Using data ethically and responsibly is the key
If this Facebook incident has taught us anything, it’s that no amount of ROI is worth the damage that can be done to a brand when it is careless with customer data. We need to “democratize” the power of data, give customers increased control over their own privacy, and give businesses the power to use data across many different channels.
Work with data providers that vet their data sources
There is a lot that can be learned from this incident. The biggest lesson is that transparency in data collection and usage is more important than ever. It is up to consumers to demand clearer policies and simpler safeguards against misuse of their data, and it is up to companies to hold themselves to higher standards when it comes to selecting data partners and determining how data will be used for marketing.
Deluxe’s long history in the financial vertical has made us a conscientious, if not conservative, collector, consumer, and user of data. We avidly adhere to the following compliance regulations to ensure the safe handling and allowed usage of the data we collect, store, and sell.
FCRA – Fair Credit Reporting Act
- U.S. Federal Government legislation enacted to promote the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of consumer information contained in the files of consumer reporting agencies.
GLBA – Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
- Also known as the Financial Modernization Act of 1999, is a federal law enacted in the United States to control the ways that financial institutions deal with the private information of individuals.
We submit any new data partner through our rigorous internal Compliance by Design (CbD) process before onboarding any data into our ecosystem. The CbD process ensures that our partners are adhering to the same compliance criteria as Deluxe, and it documents compliance efforts made by our partners to ensure that all parties are accountable for data handling, storage, and usage.
Some parting tips
When working with data providers, make sure your partners understand the regulations that you are governed by. While you certainly don’t have to work with agencies that specialize in only financial services, you should partner with providers that have a niche in this space. There is just too much risk out there to take a chance. You also may want to build out your own CbD program to vet your vendors and ensure they are in compliance with your rigorous standards. We can all learn from this Facebook incident and make sure that we are not setting ourselves up to be in the hot seat next time!