An image of a thick book with the words “Data Privacy and Ethics” on the cover.

The Importance of Data Privacy and Ethics in Digital Marketing

Customer data is crucial to many digital marketing strategies – but the collection and use of data needs to be done with care. It’s important to have a thorough understanding of data privacy and ethics when you’re collecting all this sensitive information.

Ethical data management helps you establish a good reputation in the digital age by protecting your customers’ sensitive data, but how do you develop ethical practices and appropriate safeguards?

If you’re worried about the ethical considerations of data collection or how to protect your data sets, look no further. Learn more about major ethical issues and best practices to follow when using data collection as a part of your marketing strategy.

Data Privacy and Ethics Regulations

There are different regulations when it comes to big data collection. The European Union has the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which regulates any organization within the EU or offering services to its citizens. This is currently the strictest data security policy in existence, limiting how much data you can collect or process.

You must prove that you comply with the regulations to avoid fees, meaning you need to implement safe data protection practices, and keep detailed records about the data you’re collecting and the purpose of data collection. These regulations are also why websites ask for consent when collecting your data.

Regulations in the United States

The United States doesn’t have one single privacy regulation law, but several acts apply to different industries and situations. For health care, there’s the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which regulates how providers can handle their patients’ data.

The Federal government also passed privacy acts such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), which applies to financial institutions, and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which restricts what companies can do with data collected from children under the age of 13.

Different states have their own privacy laws for personal data as well, such as California, Colorado, Connecticut, Utah, and Virginia.

Moral Obligations

No matter which privacy regulations apply to you, there are moral obligations and security issues that need to be a part of your data decision-making processes. Many major companies establish their own protections, even when they aren’t required by regulations. For example, Apple has placed heavy privacy settings on their devices to keep users from automatically being collected and tracked by websites and apps.

As time goes on, more regulations are likely to come, so it’s best to get ahead of things and begin practicing good data ethics now while keeping an eye on the ever-changing regulatory landscape.

Prevent Data Breaches

Data breaches happen every 39 seconds. These breaches can cause serious harm to your company. Not only can they corrupt your databases, but they can also lead to serious consequences for your customers and other stakeholders – not to mention open you up to legal consequences.

Build Customers’ Trust

Ethical use of data is a sensitive issue. While data-driven analytics can help you develop your marketing strategy, you’ll lose customers if they feel like they can’t trust you. A study by Harvard surveyed 2,416 Americans and found that 70% of respondents reported feeling concerned about their personal data being collected on social media and by companies.

Taking ethical responsibility for how you handle your customers’ data and developing transparent data practices can put people at ease and resolve their privacy concerns – which, in turn, helps your brand reputation.

How to Practice Good Data Ethics

So now that we’ve established that data ethics principles are important – even if your company doesn’t operate in a highly regulated area like Europe – let’s go over some of the ways you can put the principles into practice.

Develop Good Cybersecurity

Taking the proper security measures when protecting data is crucial. For any login information, you should enable multi-factor authentication. For any digital payments, make sure that you are using the most trusted tools and anti-fraud services.

Your equipment should always have up-to-date anti-virus software, secure your Cloud services, and monitor them regularly. You also need to make sure that all of your employees are trained to identify phishing emails and suspicious downloads.

Stay Transparent

Thanks to data-privacy regulations, it’s necessary to tell your customers how their data is collected and used and what security measures you take to keep your data sets safe. However, it’s best practice to make this as user-friendly as possible. Breaking down your privacy policy into sections with a clear table of contents or providing an FAQ can help earn your customer’s trust by making the information they need to know easily accessible.

Keep Customer Data-Collection and Sharing Minimal

Figure out what data analytics you need — and only collect what’s relevant. The less information you gather from your customers, the more willing they are to trust you with it.

Personally Identifiable Information (PII)  needs to also be hashed when being sent to any analytics platforms such as Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics. This includes any sensitive or unique identifying information such as:

    • Social security numbers
    • Passport numbers
    • Driver’s license numbers
    • Taxpayer identification numbers
    • Patient identification numbers
    • Financial account numbers or credit card numbers
    • Personal addresses and phone numbers

Let Customers Opt In and Out

Give customers the choice to keep their data private. When you inform them what data is being collected, ask them for consent.

Customers want to be in control of their personal data and how it’s collected. However, the majority of them say they have no issue sharing certain information if there is a clear benefit to them. When you’re transparent with how (and why) you collect data and give them the choice to share, many will do so.

Digital Marketing Done Right

If you’re working on your digital marketing strategy but are struggling with meeting data privacy and ethics guidelines, give us a call. We’ll set you up with campaigns that your target audience – and algorithms – love.