Jan. 28 marked National Data Privacy Day. With companies like Google previously announcing the end of cookies and Facebook continuously under a microscope for its data practices, data privacy is far more than a buzzword. It’s a trend that’s picking up speed and will be especially relevant in the new year. All business leaders need to be knowledgeable about ethical data collection and how it will impact business, far beyond sales and marketing.
Morning Consult and Politico recently came out with a new poll that found that 56% of U.S. voters would support federal data privacy and protection laws. Research like this has led to businesses and companies feeling more pressure to actively protect the consumer data they collect and use this data more honestly and transparently.
When we talk about consumer data, we are talking about any type of personal, behavioral or demographical information that businesses collect from their customers and prospects to better understand and meet their needs. In the last 10 years, annual data collection and usage have increased more than 15 times to an estimated 97 zettabytes for 2022.
Implementing more ethical data privacy practices may seem overwhelming, but it’s certainly attainable. Business leaders can implement small policy updates to make ethical data collection a reality:
Educate your entire company on data privacy — The basic principles of ethical data use are transparency and permission. For businesses, this means being open about what kind of data you are collecting and how you plan on using it, but it also means receiving permission from consumers before you start collecting and using their information.
Once you begin incorporating ethics into your data policies, make sure to educate all of your employees, beyond just the IT department. From employees who work directly with customers to C-suite executives, it is important to have an open line of communication throughout your company.
Implement a data minimization strategy — A big part of protecting consumer confidence is letting go of data hoarding. An estimated total of 80% of the data businesses store is considered to be unusable and outdated, which is why companies should stop data hoarding and creating infinite copies of data and only keep what is necessary. By adopting a data minimization strategy, you can ensure that you are only collecting the minimum amount of information needed to deliver the same quality of experience and personalization without risking the privacy of your consumers.
Anticipate and avoid inequitable outcomes — Data ethics doesn’t just concern how we use consumer information, but also how we collect it. Even when intentions are good, data management can cause harm to individuals and groups of people when not done ethically. Leaders need to be aware of how inequalities and bias can arise simply from data collection imbalances. Other decisions made using data should be examined for harmful bias that can appear across gender, race, and other categories. Also, data owners within companies need to understand how the data will eventually be used to set a standard for fairness.
Build a better digital world — As business leaders, we understand that consumer data allows us to help better understand them and how we can meet their needs more effectively. However, with so much consumer distrust in the marketplace, companies have to educate and even market to consumers on how they benefit from the exchange of data.
Coming into 2022, change is emerging in the way that we see and prioritize data privacy, and now is the perfect time to look at your company’s data policies. This year, bolster consumer confidence in your brand and give yourself a competitive advantage by prioritizing ethical data privacy practices and being more honest and transparent about the data you use and collect.
Lannie Byrd is the chief operating officer at MHP/Team SI, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Rogers and Little Rock. Learn more about the agency at mhpteamsi.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.