December 12, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Privacy vs. progress: protecting users from data-gathering

Privacy vs. progress: protecting users from data-gathering

With the development of insightful analytic tools in recent years, experts have begun to consider how to implement big data in PR efforts. Despite the potential for using data to improve PR efforts, it is important to consider the impact this information can have on the average consumer, as this gathering of data could blossom into a personal privacy issue. Specific policies and protections must be implemented to ensure safe, proper use of data.

Mozilla’s fight for privacy

During the last several years, Mozilla has introduced features and held events that fight data gathering tactics and promote user privacy. In particular, the company opened the Glass Room, a limited engagement project during this past holiday season. The pop-up store mimicked the trendy design of tech stores like Apple’s, but instead of selling tech products, it offered information and tutorials on digital privacy, which it refers to as Internet Health. The volunteers working in the store advised visitors on detoxing their phones from data collection and Facebook tracking, as well as how to “De-Googlize” their lives.

Additionally, the company announced in March of 2013 that its newest version of the Firefox browser would come with a default setting to disable third-party cookies. The Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Interactive Advertising Bureau Mike Zaneis stated that this feature was “harmful to the ad-supported internet across a number of dimensions.” The disagreement between these two entities illustrates the conflict between data gathering advocates and promoters of privacy.

Personal data collection

Mozilla’s project provided important insight about the way modern technology handles personal information. On the other side of the argument, there are products like RADAR.

In early 2016, Clear Channel Outdoor America (CCOA) launched RADAR, a data analytics program that reviews mobile data and movements to determine the ads that should be shown on billboards at particular times of day. Although this technology does have the potential to help professionals make smarter marketing, PR, and advertising decisions based on insights from the data, it is also important to consider the impact on personal privacy.

In the case of RADAR, CCOA’s CMO Dan Levi insists that the program involves no invasion of privacy to gain access to the information. According to Levi, the program only accesses information from users who have allowed their data to be read and it analyzes larger behavioral patterns, rather than specific activity on devices. At this time, these security measures make it unlikely that companies or individuals could wrongly access or abuse the information, but companies would need to maintain these policies to continually protect consumer’s privacy.

The future of data usage

Data and analytics undoubtedly possess value, especially for PR professionals looking to improve their use of technology and personalization in their programs. Despite the possibilities, professionals must balance data usage with maintaining the consumer’s privacy. As evidenced by existing data-gathering technologies, policies such as accessing broader data trends rather than personal information, customizable security measures, and transparency of data collection practices can contribute to proper privacy regulations of data usage.

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About The Author

jordan.gosselin@carma.com'

Jordan Gosselin recently began her career in marketing and communication with CARMA. Her experience includes social and digital work, creative content production, and marketing operations.

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