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Data is Currency. Don't Abuse It.
By: Forbes
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Today’s consumer holds more power than ever before. If they’re not satisfied with an experience, the path to purchase doesn’t align with their journey or the value simply isn’t there, they’ll head elsewhere.

Now, they’re starting to take back control of their data, too. This has put marketers at an interesting crossroads as issues surrounding data, privacy and value come to the forefront.

Until recently, most consumers willingly shared their data in exchange for some type of free service, like Facebook or Google, or for the convenience of receiving a more personalized experience. But this underlying value proposition is rapidly eroding and marketers need to figure out how to pivot.

The Wild West Of Data

When it comes to consumer data, there’s been a bit of a Wild West mentality over the past decade or so, with brands going on a land grab to amass as much of it as they could. The general mentality seemed to be that if a user provided data and received some type of perceived value in return, brands could do what they wanted with that data. It was theirs to own, mine, sell, analyze, etc.

In fact, Mark Zuckerberg went on record in a 2010 opinion piece in the Washington Post about Facebook users’ proclivity to share as a way to stay connected. His premise? The more people share, the better our world will become. Facebook is here to help facilitate that sharing. He quelled the nerves of users by pointing to a few of Facebook’s guiding principles: users have complete control over how their information is shared, and personal information is not shared or sold to anyone.

This data became a marketer’s gold mine. Suddenly, they could deploy highly targeted campaigns on specific platforms based on demographics, behavior, life stage and other criteria. But had marketers known where that data was coming from and what it actually took to convert a customer on that platform (often the exploitation of private data), they may have acted more cautiously.

Now, the cat is out of the bag. It’s clear that Facebook has been pretty loose with how easy it is to “control” users’ personal data, with other companies sure to be exposed in the future. And many users are no longer accepting it.

A Changing Tide

This clash of privacy and value has been a long time coming. Frankly, it’s shocking it’s taken so long to come to fruition. Of course, there are plenty of people who never bought into the idea of trading their privacy for “free and clear” use of services like social networking to begin with. But the fact that the population of Facebook surpassed that of China in 2015 shows just how willing most users have been to do so in the past.

Now consumers are starting to shift back in the other direction, holding their privacy closer to the vest. Many are realizing that their privacy is a high-value currency -- critically assessing how, when and where they’re willing to spend that currency. If they do spend it, they’re continually assessing whether brands are truly delivering on what they promised in return. Until now, this hasn’t been something brands and marketers have really had to consider.

More formalized structures are being put around data privacy in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU, and in regulated industries like healthcare with HIPAA and Health Level 7 (HL7). Marketers operating in this space already know how these laws impact the way in which they market and shape the customer experience.

Data And The Customer Experience

The shift to extreme privacy may not happen overnight, but the days of consumers and businesses idly handing it over are gone. Marketers are wise to take a lens to this before any new laws are passed -- not just for compliance but to create an outstanding customer experience. It’s time to peel back the layers of the onion and ask lead-generation platforms where the data is coming from. If it’s unethically sourced or used, it might be time to consider changing platforms.

Keep in mind, every interaction with a customer has the ability to build trust or break it down. In order to reshape the way brands engage with people, marketers must begin with the premise that every consumer deserves the ability to decide whether the value of their data is worth the exchange of the value a brand provides in return.


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About the Author
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. You'll find a link to the original after the post. www.forbes.com
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