Win Over the Consumer With Data Transparency

Content Takeover Big Data & Analytics

The more transparent a brand is about the information it gathers on customers and the more control it gives them over their personal data, the stronger the business opportunities, a survey has found.

A Microsoft global study, The Consumer Data Value Exchange, shows that 56 percent of the 16,500 consumers surveyed think their data is collected by brands with or without their consent, while 41 percent said they consciously share their data.

Such discrepancies reveal that consumers believe brands are collecting more information than they actually are.

In the absence of transparent information about how data is used, brands are at risk of losing consumer trust as they assume data collection is delivering benefits to a business rather than to themselves, according to the report.

“Transparency can help brands increase consumer trust and foster brand loyalty. If a brand educates transparency on their business practices, the consumer feels more invested in the brand,” says Todd Ruback, chief privacy officer for Ghostery, a global marketing technology company providing online transparency solutions.

“The larger the brand, the more transparency matters,” he adds. 

To drive consumer data transparency, the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) has initiated the AdChoices program, where participants add its icon to Web pages or ads to let consumers know what user information is being gathered or used to improve the ads they see. The icon also offers consumers the flexibility to opt out of the interest-based advertising that they receive from participating companies.

Lou Mastria, executive director of the DAA, believes that consumers should have control over their own online information and data transparency requires an ongoing effort.

“You want to drive ad relevance in a privacy-friendly way. Consumers are worried that advertisers will not responsibly use their personal data such as financial account information and social security numbers. When a company signs up for the icon, they tell consumers that they are not going to use such information without consumers’ consent,” he says. “The real privacy is that routinely consumers can click on the icon and know who is serving the ad, how their data is being used and make a choice of opting out.”

The AdChoices icon can work in the desktop, mobile app and mobile Web environments.

On September 1, the DAA will start independent education of Mobile Guidance so the industry has a better understanding about what it means to run the AdChoices icon in mobile.

Although there are industry-wide initiatives like the DAA’s AdChoices program increasing consumer data transparency, many unsolved issues remain down the road. For example, as consumers engage across more and more devices, there is still no industry standard around cross-device opt-outs.

Scott Cunningham, senior vice president of technology and ad operations for the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), uses an industry term “state management” to explain why it’s challenging to issue a unified standard.

On the Web, state management is referred to as “cookies” that allow sites to store users’ personal information such as user ID and password, as well as privacy preferences such as opt-outs and personalized themes. However, cookies don’t work on the likes of mobile, wearables and connected TVs.

“Cookies are not traceable across devices. Different state management techniques, as well as the nuances of different operating systems and devices, make it very difficult for a unified cross-device opt-out,” he notes.

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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