The Privacy Paradox and the Marketer’s Dilemma

2018 was a never-ending stream of privacy scandals, data breaches, and tech backlash. If you’re a marketer in tech, privacy is on your mind not only because of your job function but also because you’re human! Like many, you’re probably concerned about your own online privacy and not altogether confident that you’re taking the necessary precautions to protect it.

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The disconnect between people’s desired privacy and marketers’ assumptions has never been wider. According to a recent Episerver survey in the UK, 94% of consumers said they’d be unwilling to provide their personal data for more “relevant, personalized product recommendations.” However, the survey also uncovered that 27% of marketers say they believe privacy is an “outdated concept.”

In last year’s study by Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research fellow, Susan Athey, researchers offered free pizza to students in exchange for three friends’ email addresses. The study found that the majority of students were willing to accept the trade. It concluded, people “are willing to relinquish private data quite easily when incentivized to do so.” This describes the privacy paradox perfectly: Despite how much people value privacy, their behavior doesn’t always match up.

Marketers have a rare opportunity to change the status quo surrounding privacy in technology. Marketers must embrace the privacy paradox — how much people say they care about online privacy is in direct conflict with how they actually behave in real life. As marketers deliver customer insights to product teams, they have to keep in mind that consumers’ actions will always optimize for convenience. It’s up to the marketer to decide whether to advocate for privacy or convenience. A more private world without a wealth of customer intelligence also poses challenges for marketers. But it’s possible to reconcile the privacy paradox with marketers’ hunger for data.

As marketers, we’re well-positioned to champion customers’ privacy concerns and make a lasting industry change. Here are five principles that marketers can use to support customers’ privacy concerns and rebuild trust.

Read More: How Publishers and Platforms Can Put Privacy First

Who Benefits From Customer Data?

An important question for marketers to raise is whether a product’s use of customer data actually benefits end-users. Venmo, the popular payment sharing app makes all of its customer transactions public by default. Unless a user knows how to change the privacy settings, any payments made with Venmo are automatically visible for anyone to see.

It’s hard to believe that this product decision was made to benefit Venmo’s customers. Most people would prefer to keep financial transactions private. LendEDU, a marketplace for student loans and refinancing, surveyed millennials and nearly one third admitted to using Venmo to pay for drugs (information that most probably wouldn’t want to make public).

 Don’t Ask For Data That’s Unnecessary

Google Maps, one of the most popular apps in the App Store, asks for microphone access when you seek directions. This is unnecessary for the app to work. In fact, in a variety of Google support forums, people complain that Google Maps also asks for phone and call information, calendar access, and other permissions. This all comes at the cost of customer privacy.

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Tell Customers When You Are Finished Using Their Data

This is a topic we’ve been discussing recently at Keepsafe. Our app, Keepsafe Unlisted, gives customers new phone numbers in any US.or CA area code. Most of our customers like to use a second phone number in a nearby area code. With their permission, we can use their location to quickly show them phone numbers available nearby. But once they purchase a number, we can also alert them that we no longer need this permission.

Make Your Privacy Policies Understandable

Incomprehensible terms of service and privacy policies exist so legal departments can mitigate company risks. They also tend to cover every scenario under the sun. As marketers, we can ask our legal team to break down privacy policies, so we can make them easy for customers to understand. Keepsafe’s privacy policy is summarized in four statements on our website. This simple explanation gives people insight into what they are signing up for when they use one or more of Keepsafe’s apps.

Read More: The Top Hidden Privacy Dangers

Prioritize Privacy

Apple has always put privacy first. As people became more vocal about defending their online privacy over the past year, Apple introduced a new data and privacy icon in their iOS 11.3 release. Every time that people see the data and privacy icon, they know that Apple is requesting personal information. By explicitly bringing these requests to people’s attention, Apple is upholding its statement that privacy is a fundamental human right.

Privacy is one of technology’s most pressing issues. Marketers must insert themselves into the conversation to stand up for people’s real privacy concerns and influence technology for today and tomorrow.

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