But data collection, especially for cross-device profile building, has already become inextricably interwoven with the debate around consumer privacy.
While a recently released cybersecurity report from the George Institute of Technology highlights that “businesses are driven to collect more data on consumers to improve operations and lead generation, posing a significant risk to privacy,” the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 54% of consumers cite “greed” and “money” as the two main motivators behind business innovation.
According to Nielsen’s most recent “Global Trust in Advertising” report, digital advertising brings up the rear in terms of trust, behind television, print, radio, billboards, movie trailers and even product placements in TV shows.
It’s perhaps understandable, considering the origin story of the now famous case of Target knowing a teenage girl was pregnant before her dad did by sending a mailer to her home full of baby-related items like cribs and diapers.
Andrew Pole, the statistician who cracked the code on Target’s pregnancy prediction algorithm, told The New York Times in 2012 that the original motivation came from the marketing department, when two colleagues popped by his desk to ask, “If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that?”
The marketing use case for Target’s pregnancy score is clear – sell more stuff and keep customers coming back to the store. But it’s a privacy quagmire.
“Look at the largest enterprises – GE or Walmart, for example – and think about the number of consumer identities they have,” Turner said.
Despite the perception that compliance is tedious or inhibits creativity or innovation in some way, it’s always better than having to mount a defense, said Michelle Cohen, a privacy lawyer at Ifrah Law LLC.
“My goal is to keep the client outside of litigation,” said Cohen, who joked that before being introduced to a client’s new CMO a while back, she was told by her client to “scare him.”
Because litigation is avoidable. “The way to do [it] is to have a fulsome consent policy, even though the marketing folks may not be all that excited about it,” Cohen said.
Although Cohen was referring in that instance to compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the federal statute that limits robocalling and the use of autodialers, it’s a sentiment that rings true across the board.
Take it from Kristi Thompson, deputy division chief of the Federal Communication Commission’s Telecommunications Consumers Division enforcement bureau: “Sometimes people think compliance is boring, but the alternative is excitement – and legal excitement is expensive.”