Should privacy be a marketer’s top priority?

Naylor Gray

Director of global marketing, Frost & Sullivan; ,ore than 12 years in marketing

No. What should be a top concern for marketers is ensuring that online data privacy is a top concern with their vendors and their own IT department. We would not ask IT professionals if the marketing message was their top concern, so why ask marketers to take ownership over something that is clearly outside their realm of expertise?

In many instances, availability and security requirements, which drive the execution of online data privacy, are mandated by corporate governance or legislation. A great example of government-mandated security requirements would be the United States Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 which requires, among other things, that certain standards be maintained for the storage and sharing of sensitive patient medical information. As any healthcare marketer will tell you, HIPAA is always a concern, but it is not their job to implement and enforce these provisions.

While marketers may wear many hats, online security and encryption should reside with professionals who understand them best. However, it is absolutely the job of marketers to require stringent security standards for all of the client-facing interactions, particularly those transactions that contain sensitive information. This security focus should be clearly communicated to vendors and IT teams and guarantees should reside within service-level agreements. Marketers should also be sure consumers understand their commitment to data security. l

Mason Wiley

SVP of marketing, Hydra Network More than 20 years of DM and e-commerce experience

Yes. Consumer online data privacy is certainly a concern for online marketers, as it is drawing so much attention from consumers and legislators — and excessive, over-aggressive legislation could put a major damper on business.

It’s true that many online marketers, primarily those engaged in behavioral targeting, do collect user data without informing consumers. What most consumers don’t realize is that the data are not linked to personally identifiable information. Online marketers may know where you’ve been and what you clicked on, but they don’t have your name and address; they only have your IP address.

While it is possible for some Big Brother governmental agency or some non-scrupulous marketer to make the link between names and IP address or actions, it is not done by scrupulous marketers outside of explicit opt-in programs where the consumer has knowledge of it.

This raises the interesting question of who owns the data. Are data captured on a Web site the property of that Web site, or the advertiser who places an ad on that site? Or are all data generated by a consumer the property of that consumer? Do there need to be disclosures? 

The online marketing industry needs to address these questions and do a better job educating and communicating its side of the issue. Otherwise, it faces draconian measures levied by those who don’t understand it. l


Data privacy is rightly a concern for many marketers, but it’s also not their expertise. They should communicate with other business units, including policy and IT, to make sure they are not inadvertently putting consumer data at risk, capturing too much of it, or on the wrong side of government regulations.

HAVE YOUR SAY E-mail your topic to [email protected]

Related Posts