The Google news has sparked controversy because of the move from individual privacy policies for each service, to a blanked policy that shares information between services.
The NYTimes piece shared how much a large organization can discover about their customers and prospects based upon the union of compiled data and web tracked behaviors. This was highlighted when a 15 year old pregnant girl’s father was outraged that Target was sending his daughter coupons for pregnancy and baby needs –before he even knew she was pregnant –and, perhaps, before she even knew she was pregnant.
Redefining Privacy For a New Age
Perhaps the biggest question posed by these two articles is what exactly does privacy mean in the 21st century?
Both practices were met with some outrage, with Google’s planned changes going so far as to make it to a congressional committee. But what expectation of privacy can consumers reasonably expect in a world where tracking people and behaviors is as easy as adding a single line of code to a website.
Modeling the Future of Privacy
Keeping customers and subscribers in the know and managing their expectations of privacy is key in developing the future of privacy.
Blue sky laws, which regulate the offering and sale of securities to protect against fraud, created a simple model 40 years ago that are relatively straightforward about the risks a specific investment contains. The same is what’s really needed for privacy models. And despite the flack that Google is currently receiving, they’re actually leading the way in re-defining how companies explain privacy and user data. Their Good to Know page clearly defines how they use user data in an easy-to-read format that lacks the legal speak that muddles most policies.
However, until legislators take a lead and develop a competent model of online privacy and anti-spam laws, marketers don’t have a solid template to use to build or revise their own internal privacy policies. This means that marketers have to take the responsibility of managing the privacy expectations of their customers into their own hands.
Keeping Customers In The Know
Be Clear. Oftentimes, customers aren’t aware of the data they’re signing away when they agree to privacy policies. Cut out the legalese and explain your privacy conditions in a clear and concise manner.
Be Upfront. Don’t hide your policies behind the curtain. If you need access to a subscriber or customer’s past behavior data in order to offer them tailored offers in the future, let them know that.
Privacy has quickly grown into a large topic for discussion and exploration, and it will turn into a larger concern in the future as marketing becomes even more tailored and personal. Email remains one of the few channels where customers feel their privacy still exists. That’s partly because email users have less expectations of privacy from the email sender because the recipient already knows who they are. It’s also because of the one-on-one relationship that email provides. Because of those factors, it will continue to be a trusted channel of communication.
Until we’re able to better define privacy, it’s important to maintain complete transparency so that marketers can continue to build trust with consumers and offer personalized service without betraying those expectations.