Advertisers Can Teach U.S. Government A Lot About Cross-Data Integration

Advertisers take a lot of flak when it comes to mining data that gives customers a better experience online and offline. No one can dispute that the industry has managed to develop expertise -- perhaps too much.

Technology can find the correct nuggets and combine the information from numerous platforms and databases to target across channels -- from connected technology and radio to searches on Google or Bing. And the recent redesign of Google Analytics is said to have significantly improved the measurement of targeting for advertisers.

Sky Cassidy, CEO of MountainTop Data, a data provider to some of the biggest U.S. brands such as Motorola, and Symantec, says dirty data -- which he defines as any type of inaccurate information -- has become dirtier during COVID, at least for B2B.



“Sometimes it’s inaccurate because the person never worked as an employee at the company, or the records have outdated business titles or phone numbers,” he says. “Then there are typos and wrong ZIP codes.”

He knows this because at MountainTop Data, which focuses on B2B clients, a score qualifies the quality of the records.

“If you take a large company with many subsidiaries it can get very messy,” he said. “The same with franchise businesses such as McDonald’s. Some franchises are owned by corporate and others by individuals. When it comes to dirty data, it’s like a countertop. It won’t be perfectly sterile.”

The expertise the advertising industry developed through the past 10 years -- including programmatic bidding and buying of media -- has landed some companies in hot water with the U.S. government. In June, Google came up against a $5 billion lawsuit in the U.S. for tracking private internet use.

The class-action lawsuit accused the internet company of "illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their internet use through browsers set in 'private' mode," reports Reuters.

Then there is the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Google for its dominance in online advertising.

Dominance requires expertise -- which the the U.S. government doesn't seem to have.

U.S. government agencies are full of dirty data. For example, the agency spearheading U.S. voter registration in the state of California needs to spend time cleaning up its database. I moved to Wyoming from California several years ago. In the past six months, I received a postcard addressed to me at my new address in Wyoming. 

The postcard read something like this: We heard you moved. Please check the box indicating this is your correct address and send it back. I did. Three months later I received a jury summons for Orange County Superior Court in California. So I had to go online and explain why I couldn’t legally participate. Then a week ago, I received an Official Voter Ballot in the state of California. I had already voted in my legal home state of Wyoming. 

What’s my point? The U.S. government needs to learn from the advertising industry how to correctly integrate data -- complete with checks and balances -- rather than spending time trying to tear companies apart for being successful at what they do.  

I am not an anomaly when it comes to receiving inaccurate information based on U.S. government agencies. There are more out there just like me.

MountainTop Data’s Cassidy says the government’s data remains in silos, much of it in unacceptable ways. 

“How does the government not know you moved when you changed your driver’s license?” he asks. “I’m sure there are a lot of restrictions when it comes to sharing data across state lines. We are the United States of America, but one state might have different rules than another when it comes to sharing data."

"Centralizing data would help databases at government agencies remain clearer," he adds.

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