Three Ways to Avoid Data Leakage Nightmares

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Pascal Bensoussan, Aggregate Knowledge
Pascal Bensoussan, Aggregate Knowledge

WSJ.com recently published research  on which top websites are routinely passing along information belonging to registered, logged-in users among its tech and ad partners. This data may include email address, name or username, age or birth year, and Zip Code. Whether or not the receiving partners asked for the data, the fact that this personally identifiable information (PII) can be circulated and referenced later has made those in the industry leery.

This issue is not a new one, and continues to add to consumer uncertainty and scrutiny over privacy. After all, nobody wants their personal information or web trails passed around like a hand-me-down sweater.  And it's definitely not a good look for those parties involved.

To avoid this data leakage nightmare as you look to use your own first-party data, build custom marketing campaigns, or bring new partners on board to drive reach and sales, keep in mind these three tips.

Data ownership

The data you own on your customers, whether it comes from your CRM database, sales transactions, website, or other channel, is the crown jewel of information used to grow your business. This is why you should care about the possibility of jeopardizing personally identifiable information (PII) that can fall into the hands of others and (potentially) be used for targeting your audience without your knowledge. This could lead to negative brand experiences and, ultimately, affect your customer base. Your data is owned by you, so you have the right to direct what can and cannot be done with it.

Data transfer

Bringing the offline world online is what all marketers hope to leverage to increase media spend efficiency and demonstrate additional return on investment for those dollars. Ensuring that your data is anonymized and secure when it's passed to any third party is essential, as is working with partners that have no vested interest in the information (or PII data).  This means, before you send any type of data outside your company's firewall, you should ensure each user profile (or cookie) contains attributes only.

Data partners

Many solution providers in the industry that work with data for targeting, attribution, and digital campaigns also offer data management capabilities. However, some have business models where they also sell audience data or media. Because of this, they're not truly neutral. Look for partners that neutrally report on data, and do not buy or sell media or data, as this ensures that the insights you receive are represented accurately and drive the right decisions as you move to meet your key performance indicators.

The more valuable the data is, the larger the financial impact of a breach. Any way you look at it, exposure of the facts will force the industry to change their ways and make leakage a thing of the past. Let's hope this happens without a major lawsuit acting as a catalyst.

Pascal Bensoussan is chief strategy officer for Aggregate Knowledge.

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