What’s next for data privacy?

Discussion
Photo: @KlavdiyaV via Twenty20
Jan 21, 2021
Tom Ryan

At a CES 2021 session featuring privacy experts from Amazon.com, Google and Twitter, panelists agreed that, while data transparency is critical, a “patchwork” of privacy rules across areas may increasingly undermine the benefits of the internet.

“We learned [in 2020] that privacy is very much a human right, but that there are different visions and approaches to enabling it,” Rajeev Chand, moderator and partner at Wing Venture Capital, said at the start of the session that took place in December.

The panel’s conclusions included:

  • GDPR, the EU’s data protection law that passed in 2018, has been a major catalyst driving companies to commit to privacy protections globally. Consumers have more ways to access, delete and otherwise control their data.
  • Consumers are increasingly concerned about how their data is used online.
  • Due to the pandemic, consumers have been significantly relying more on technology than in the past to stay connected and tackle life’s tasks remotely.

The increased use and awareness around data has made transparency more important.

Anne Toth, director, Alexa Trust at Amazon, stated, “It’s just going to make it more essential for us to demonstrate again and again, over and over, the ways in which we’re raising the bar on privacy and transparency and trust for our customers.”

Damien Kieran, chief privacy officer, Twitter, believes transparency around artificial intelligence and machine learning will become more important “as those technologies become more ubiquitous.”

Still, Mr. Kieran cautioned that disparate privacy regulations have the “potential for a balkanization of the internet, balkanization of services.” For instance, Twitter may have different settings, controls and overall experience depending on the region.

Keith Enright, Google’s chief privacy officer, said the challenge the tech industry is “increasingly dealing with is data is driving everything.” Legal requirements will consequently increasingly be revised or reinterpreted based on the movement and governance of data, he believes.

While the main priority is to “keep users safe online,” Mr. Enright said Google also has to recognize “other values,” including freedom of expression, competition and supporting economic growth. “We want to make sure that we are working with all the relevant communities so that we’re addressing all of those obligations responsibly.”

Panelists agreed that a U.S. federal privacy law is slightly more likely with the arrival of the Biden administration.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What’s the ideal outcome from the data privacy debate for retailers? Will customer concerns about the security and privacy of their online data impede personalized marketing at scale? Do you agree that different privacy laws across regions will degrade the online experience for consumers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Global e-commerce privacy standards -- and enforcement -- would improve today’s patchwork approach, improving consumer confidence."
"Privacy is over, but data security and fair compensation (in the form of micropayments secured using the blockchain) are achievable goals."
"The mere discussion of privacy solutions has become the de facto solution to appease the public and puff up corporate images. Why would the public be cynical?"

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12 Comments on "What’s next for data privacy?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Privacy is becoming more not less important and retailers need to be very mindful of this. And we are starting to see companies respond accordingly. Apple is a good example. Today they talk a lot about the important role they play in securing customers privacy. Privacy and personalization aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive if done right – and that means disclosure and ability to opt out. But while the industry and tech leaders can agree that privacy is important, the lack of national privacy standards will continue to make this problematic and require companies to find their own way for the foreseeable future.

Di Di Chan
BrainTrust

The pursuit to access more intrusive customer data is not done out of technological necessity. Retailers don’t need that much data to achieve great personalized marketing results. A few relevant data (that can be easily aligned with privacy protection) are more than enough to generate the best personalized marketing results.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Helping consumers feel safe online is retailers’ ideal outcome.

Data privacy risks limit one-to-one marketing, as consumers withhold personal details. Retailers’ commitment to transparency and rigorous security could compel consumers to open up and share more over time.

Global e-commerce privacy standards – and enforcement – would improve today’s patchwork approach, improving consumer confidence.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

In the U.S. so far, user data privacy has largely been relegated to the fox guarding the hen house, which is quite evident in Keith Enright’s comments on “other values,” referenced here as including freedom of expression, competition and supporting economic growth.

As much as I don’t like government over-regulation, there really needs to be E.U. style federal privacy requirements, or despite claims and employees with titles, tech/commerce companies of all sizes will continue to verbalize user privacy concerns, while ever more subtly infringing upon them.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust
Retailers’ #1 priority for their customer interactions has to be protecting their data. There have been way too many failures in this space so it’s no wonder consumers and lawmakers are seeking legal protection. But when it comes to personalization and marketing and online experiences it’s a bit different. The question is, what do you consider to be a positive online experience for consumers? If that experience includes an inbox full of offers and messages from lists and companies that I don’t care about or never subscribed to then yes I believe this will degrade that experience. If you are talking about experiences that offer curated content and offers from companies I want do business with and to whom I’ve given my consent to market to me, then no, I don’t think these laws will degrade that experience at all. These laws raise the bar on how retailers and others create and execute their marketing tactics. They have to be smarter about their messaging, smarter about who and how they target and smarter about the… Read more »
Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Ai and Ml have yet to define a code of ethics! A couple of decades in, formalizing ethics driven consumer data privacy is lip service. As far as retailers go, it depends on who the retailer is, said the elephant in the room. The question of yes or no to regional privacy laws is a talking point. The mere discussion of privacy solutions has become the de facto solution to appease the public and puff up corporate images. Why would the public be cynical?

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

This is one of those discussions that we can talk about all day and agree that privacy is most important. But, when the decisions to go on social media or to buy something online comes up, all personal privacy concerns seem to disappear. I guess what we need are laws to protect us from ourselves.

My biggest concern is not Google, Apple, Facebook or Amazon. My biggest concern is our own government. Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA and CIA and they determined to stop. Today there is no indication they have stopped in any way. Today, over 50 percent of American citizens’ faces are on file via facial recognition. There are still parts of the Patriot Act that permit the government to make egregious errors in their surveillance.

I am not afraid of the tech companies. I am afraid of the government having these types of resources.

James Tenser
BrainTrust

My data should be mine to protect and share at my pleasure. It evidently has value to marketers. They should be paying me to access it and paying me “rent” when they store it for future use. This may sound unworkable, but there are efforts underway to establish systems of secure data vaults or lockboxes for both personal financial data and health data.

Tim Berners-Lee (widely credited as the creator of the World Wide Web) has been advocating for such a platform recently.
Here’s another POV. And a Harvard Business Review article in 2017 declared that “Blockchain Will Transform Customer Loyalty Programs.”

Privacy is over, but data security and fair compensation (in the form of micropayments secured using the blockchain) are achievable goals.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

If retailers want to increase the trust consumers have in their privacy practices, they should ask only for the data they really need. It is amazing what some of their apps asks for access to. No, you don’t need access to my contacts, photos, etc. etc. to determine how to customize your offers to me. When I see these types of lists, I don’t install the app.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

For retailers, I would think the “ideal” is consumers would neither know nor care enough to object to … well, any kind of restriction at all. In short: to party like it’s 2009 … forever.

But I think this is a classic example of market dysfunction due to (grossly) asymmetric knowledge, and frankly — both as a consumer and a citizen — I’m much more concerned sensible rules be enacted and legislated if necessary, than allowing personalized marketing to run amok. “Just trust us” …uhm, no thanks.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

As long as the debate is framed as privacy versus personalization, disappointment is ensured. There will come a day when consumers will control access to their data and broadcast their purchase intentions to select trusted brands and banners to respond and engage. Technology is enabling these types of consumer-led relationships, but they require a new retailing mindset. You can find an excellent example of such efforts in Project VRM.

ronenluzon
Guest
2 months 16 days ago

One of the important points highlighted in this article is the fact that consumers are now more reliant on technology. While proposed legislation is a crucial facet to make sure that shift doesn’t expose customers, retailers need to be wary when it comes to the type of technologies deployed, even if they follow guidelines. In the sizing space that my company operates in, for example, we see many sizing solutions that leverage a users’ camera to take photos of them while they’re half-naked in order to provide accurate measurements. This type of usage is inherently sensitive and retailers should look for alternatives.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Global e-commerce privacy standards -- and enforcement -- would improve today’s patchwork approach, improving consumer confidence."
"Privacy is over, but data security and fair compensation (in the form of micropayments secured using the blockchain) are achievable goals."
"The mere discussion of privacy solutions has become the de facto solution to appease the public and puff up corporate images. Why would the public be cynical?"

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