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8 ways businesses can prepare for users regaining control of their data

The concept of data privacy and protection has become one of the biggest hot-button topics today. As people’s reliance on and use of technology grows, so does the amount of data they put out — knowingly or unknowingly — for companies to use. As consumers are becoming more concerned with how their data is used, they’re becoming less trusting of these companies, however, and are pushing to limit what data companies have access to. From an advertising perspective, that means companies would learn less about their target audiences. And the impact of this concern goes much further — depending on how governmental agencies view the threat of businesses having control of consumer data, organizations may lose access to the data they already have.

For a company within the advertising sphere, consumer data is the bread and butter of its craft. Advertising algorithms don’t work without proper data. Knowing what to expect when it comes to users regaining control of their information can help mitigate the impact this new control could have on a company’s operations.

No one has a crystal ball to tell the future, but these eight professionals from Ad Age Collective have spent a lot of time considering the nuances of this topic. Here, they share their advice for how businesses can prepare for users to regain control of their data, and how those within the industry need to adapt to deal with this new reality.

1. Be transparent about data.

Consumers will seek granular solutions to control how their data is used. While the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a ground-breaking law giving consumers more control, it leaves questions, particularly with over-the-top services, on how companies can still utilize data, effectively deploy marketing dollars and be compliant. Businesses must be transparent about data to better engage with consumers and efficiently use marketing budgets. – Andre Swanston, Tru Optik

2. Earn their trust and offer great experiences.

As people take more control of their own data and privacy laws stiffen, it is likely consumers will turn data access on and off based on who they trust and what they receive. The model was backward. The future is right. Marketing’s role is to give consumers the best experience. Consumers will give us the means to co-pilot their experiences if we earn their trust and respect and drive value. – Lana McGilvray, Purpose Worldwide

3. Offer compliant opt-out strategies.

Consumer opt-out strategies that comply with CCPA and other regulations help put the power of a consumer’s marketing identity back with the consumer. Proactive compliance protects customers, builds goodwill and helps verify a consumer’s identity so marketers can anticipate consumer needs and offer Amazon-like suggestions. Eliminating uninterested or irrelevant consumers is a win for marketers. – Gary Walter, Infutor

4. Work with them to set expectations.

Data is and has been driving everything — how we shop, how we are marketed to and how we are tracked. I think people have become accustomed to it and have little chance of regaining total control. As marketers, we must show consumers how we are using data for good, to make things easier and to target what they need and not vice-versa. Work with them to set expectations on their terms. – Maggie O’Neill, Peppercomm

5. Be clear about how you use the data.

People produce larger data footprints every day — mostly voluntarily to enhance their lives — so, in that way, they already have some control over the data they produce. Without backing away from technology or serious government intervention, it is hard to imagine individuals really controlling the data about themselves. Nevertheless, companies need to be clear about how they use data they gather. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

6. Know your boundaries.

Privacy is important and will continue to be more and more so in coming times. You can still reach a consumer and deliver an effective message without tapping into deeply personal parts of their lives that are sacred — crossing that boundary could alienate a consumer and deter them from a brand. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Allow them to opt in, rather than opt out.

Multibillion dollar industries have sprung up as a result of data. It will take a sizable effort for consumers to regain control of their data, but innovative companies can take advantage of rebuilding goodwill of their own accord. A start is to switch to opt-in for usage of data rather than opt-out to demonstrate that companies care about their consumers as people and not just sources of data. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

8. Keep an eye out for new compliance tools.

Today, there already exists GDPR management software that can help businesses make their activities more compliant with the regulation. It’s not reaching to assume that we should see new tools that compel better compliance or ones that give users access to what’s being collected. Businesses need to regularly scan for news and updates to stay on top of these possibilities. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner