Commentary

Media Researchers May Need To Onboard Privacy Controls To Avoid Matching Respondent Identities

An unintended consequence of the consumer data privacy discussion is that it’s beginning to raise questions for some of the oldest and most established collectors of consumer information: marketing and media research companies. While those companies historically have utilized opt-in panels and rarely if ever disclose the actual identities of their respondents, the way the industry is beginning to correlate user behaviors is beginning to raise privacy issues for the biggest researchers.

“Thirty-four years ago when we started out there weren’t such privacy concerns. Companies like MRI need to go back and look at how we handle the identities of our respondents,” Andrew Arthur, senior vice president-product lead and data partnerships at GfK MRI said during the “Beyond Search” panel at OMMA Programmatic in New York Tuesday.

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While companies like MRI have historically kept their respondents personal data -- like names, addresses, etc. -- separate from their respondent data, Arthur said the way brands, agencies, publishers and various middlemen are beginning to match their respondent data to their identities could change the way they manage things.

“I think we need someone like an onboard provider, offline,” he said, adding to “give the identity of our users for matching purposes.”

Arthur said the goal is not just to avoid violating respondent’s privacy, but the ensure “we actually can’t do it.

“It’s something companies like MRI, and Nielsen as well, will need to grapple with.”
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