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Winning Your Business, and Your Customers, with a Privacy-Led Approach

  • Kerry Pearce 
Winning Your Business, and Your Customers, with a Privacy-Led Approach

More than ever, earning and maintaining trust with consumers has become a mandatory part of business.  To do this, companies must become obsessed with trust and privacy.  Failure to do this will land your business in the news across top-tier media outlets– and for the wrong reasons!

In today’s extreme information age, personal data seems to be everywhere. Luckily, with the adoption of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), cookie depreciation, and numerous legal restrictions created to protect consumers, consumers more than ever can control who and what they want to share, on a case by case basis– completely changing the data and privacy landscape. When faced with an increasingly complex regulatory environment, some companies hide their heads in the sand or attempt expensive lobbying forays at the other end of the spectrum to avoid new regulations. But there is a middle ground: embrace consumer protections and become a privacy-led enterprise.

What’s a Privacy-Led Approach?

As many of us know, with a simple google search, you can easily get a person’s job title, age, gender, income, and the company they work for. The concern of many is that the person you searched for didn’t actually consent to share this information so easily found online. Was it obtained via a massive data breach or via a chain of consent?

Like in life, there is always nuance to a story.  There are companies that take a privacy-led approach and companies that are bad actors, and some companies who were victims of hackers, who illegally obtained their company data and put it somewhere on the web.  For every data breach and bad actor, hundreds of privacy-led companies approach the care and respect of consumer data as a critical component of their business.

Privacy-led boils down to empathy–putting yourself in the consumer’s shoes. You must ask questions like: how would I feel if this were my data, and how would I feel about the use cases my data is being used for?  

Privacy-led is not just signing a contract and sending data on without worrying where it lands or what use case it’s for.  Privacy-led ensures that consumers have given informed and specific consent and maintain control over their data.  Privacy led is being specific and transparent about where consumer data is going.  Privacy led is undertaking the significant but worthy effect of external and independent certification of the company’s data governance.  Privacy-led is investing in privacy.

We’re all Consumers, and We all want Consent, Control, and Consideration

As mentioned above, being privacy-led should inspire you to think like a consumer–because you are one!  You might’ve noticed more recently, that you have the opportunity to give your consent when you visit websites or even download a new app. You either have the choice to explicitly opt-in to say, “yes you may use my data,” or choose to be tracked “only while actively using a specific app” or you can simply decline, and say “no to all tracking.” While privacy breaches and questionable actors dominate headlines, consumers now have more choices than ever to allow companies to obtain (or not) and use one’s data (or not).

Control or the ability to opt-out of the data-sharing marketplace is a right offered by too few citizens around the world from a legal standpoint. However, many companies offer the right to opt out for any customer worldwide.  Want to be privacy-led? Provide consumers control over their data no matter where they happen to live.

Consideration means using the position you have as a controller of consumer data in an appropriate way. Data belongs to the consumer–your company is temporarily borrowing it.  Businesses should be considerate about how data is used.  A lot of business value can come from tiny bursts of information about a consumer. For example, making inferences that someone visited a Nordstroms versus Dollar General is useful information–for real estate firms, retailers, and media professionals. Most of the value here is created without the need for sharing personally identifiable information.  Be considerate to consumers, ensure that your data sharing is making a business difference, and consider their privacy.

A Final Word: Joy in Aggregation

Companies, like Near, that follow a privacy-led approach don’t want to just pick individuals out of a crowd. Just because one consumer from Toronto shows up in a fast-food restaurant in El Paso, Texas, doesn’t mean that restaurant should change its media budget to focus on tourists from Toronto.  Each individual, in their own way, is an outlier.  When businesses are able to put people together into a pattern or into large groups is when companies truly obtain the type of information they need, in order to understand the types of customers they really have. This data and privacy-led approach to pattern recognition is essential no matter your business.