Commentary

A Call To Arms In Data

Two weeks ago, California became the first U.S. state to adopt its own broad-reaching legislation governing the use of consumer data online.  In effect, California adopted its own version of GDPR, which has a compounding effect on the data-driven marketing industry.

As you all know, GDPR went into effect in May. You probably received a few hundred emails from companies trying to become compliant.  Most U.S. companies are already over-indexing toward the GDPR for U.S. users too, though the legislation has little practical impact on the day-to-day operations of U.S-based ad- and mar-tech companies.  What it does do is give consumers more insight into the ways their data is being leveraged, shining an even brighter flashlight on this aspect of the business.  

Consumers are not dumb, but they are paranoid — and all this hullabaloo about their privacy is simply increasing the attention paid to data. 

Republicans are historically business-oriented and small-government-driven, but this administration is also averse to technology and not a fan of data usage.  Consumer online privacy and the use of data could become more of a hot-button issue for them.  

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The California legislation is likely the tip of the spear. As more consumers become aware of data use, they will likely pressure the federal government to develop some kind of broader national legislation that could be even more restrictive and detrimental to the ad- and mar-tech sector. As the old saying goes, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”

This needs to become a central issue, and the large companies in the data, digital media and technology business need to band together to address it proactively.  Google,  Facebook,  Adobe,  Microsoft,  IBM,  Oracle, Verizon,  AT&T:  These are the companies that need to work together to take the best of the California legislation and GDPR and build off of it.  

They need to band together to create tools allowing consumers to have more control over the data, and they need to make the federal government comfortable with these efforts.  They may even need to work with the government to develop the proper legislation.

Industry trade groups are trying to address these issues, but these are the companies that really matter and can lead the charge. 

As a marketer, and one who specifically worked in data for many years, I know the depth to which data is used -- and I also understand consumers’ need to be comfortable with how their data is getting used.  I know there are responsible parties as well as bad actors across the board having an effect on the entire category.  If these issues are not proactively addressed, then marketing and advertising risk going backward in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and the ability to do general storytelling at all.

I hope these companies are reading this piece, and I hope they agree that the best way to deal with the issue is to deal with it head-on

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