Data Privacy in Digital Marketing

How people think about their data and privacy has fundamentally changed. Search interest in the U.S. for “my activity,” where people can manage information like their search and browsing history that’s saved to their Google Account has increased sixfold since 2016. And in the last four weeks alone, more than 160 million people have gone into their Google Accounts to review and adjust their privacy settings, which include the types of data Google can collect and the kinds of ads Google shows them.

There is already a strong government reaction to consumer concerns. In addition to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, regulation is also heating up in the U.S., with legislation being considered at both the national and state levels and the passage of new privacy law in California.

Technology platforms are also responding to consumer concerns. Apple’s Safari browser updated its intelligent tracking prevention, known as ITP 2.0, to block third-party cookies. And Mozilla’s Firefox browser now comes with enhanced tracking protection, which also has the capability to block third-party cookies. These browser changes have already had an impact on digital marketing.

1. Ads personalization is now limited. Cookies are often used to show ads to people based on websites they’ve visited. Efforts to block these cookies limit the ability to deliver personalized ads to visitors from these browsers.

2. Conversions are being underreported. Since view-through and cross-device conversions can’t be counted when cookies are blocked, advertising reporting has become less reliable, especially for campaigns that measure value using view-throughs.

3. Measurement methods are under pressure. Brand-lift surveys, holdback tests, and attribution models that rely on third-party cookies are less accurate when cookies are blocked.

The pace and impact of changes to the digital ads ecosystem will likely intensify as regulators, policymakers, platform owners, and users alike take more of an interest in online privacy. Forward-thinking marketers understand that online privacy concerns are real, and they have been preparing all along. These marketers strive for growth, but not at the cost of consumer trust. Instead, they invest in ways to protect and strengthen their relationships with customers, ultimately creating brands that will endure. These marketers realize that responsible marketing is more important than ever because the expectations for privacy are higher than ever.

It is essential to work with partners who recognize the scale and impact of the changes underway. Ask how they are planning to respond to these changes, and how they are ensuring data is protected and used appropriately. By working together to protect user privacy, we will be able to deliver exceptional marketing that drives results and builds trust.

If you are not already taking steps to address these changes, you can start with the following considerations.

1. Transparent about what data you collect. Ask for explicit consent and give people real choices in the types of experiences they can have with your brand depending on their privacy needs.

2. Thoughtful about how that data is collected. Invest in a direct way to measure your interactions with users. Here, cookies are set only if visitors have had direct contact with your website.

3. Privacy-safe when managing customer data. This will likely mean investing in cloud technology, which has built-in security capabilities like data encryption.