Register now!

Sept. 28 - Oct. 3, 2013

DataWeek 2013 Conference and Expo
Browse DataWeek News and Submit Articles

Transparency as a Service: How We Got Here

During our time building privacy friendly data products at Enliken we’ve learned a lot about consumers’ opinions and perceptions of the information that describes them. Along the way we also talked to dozens of companies about how they gather and use data.

Our key insights:

  • Consumers are happy to share some information with businesses they trust, and fiercely protect the rest.

  • When consumers say “privacy” they don’t mean isolation, they mean control.

  • There are 4 factors that influence a consumer’s perception of privacy – transparency, content, use and retention.

  • The data that advertisers want most (intent and affinity data) is information that consumers are happy to share.

Our new product leverages those insights to create a solution to the privacy paradox facing digital marketers today: how can i provide relevance while respecting privacy? Last week Julie Bernard described the paradox at D2:

“There’s a funny consumer thing ,” she said. “They’re worried about our use of data, but they’re pissed if I don’t deliver relevance. … How am I supposed to deliver relevance and magically deliver what they want if I don’t look at the data?”

As it turns out, this might be a false choice. Consumers don’t want to deny brands the ability to capture and use data as much as they want the ability to control the terms under which it happens. Especially for brands like Macys that wield such strong brand equity that they could easily ask for more data. Research by PWC, DMA(UK), McCann and others has confirmed this.

So what are these magic terms that make consumers comfortable with advertisers using their data for marketing? How can we tap the full potential of data driven marketing?


It’s our opinion that individuals simply want to know what data is being gathered, what it’s being used for, and for certain types of data, how long it’s going to be kept for. In the case of digital advertising the use is obvious and retention isn’t a factor because the content is innocuous.

Let’s talk more about the content. In the case of most behavioral advertising, content is an age range, salary range, the types of things you are shopping for, maybe if you own pets, etc. You’d expect people to normally rate this stuff as pretty harmless. They do – earlier this year we showed 600 people their profiles from 5 major online data brokers and asked them to rate sensitivity. Overall they rated only 9% of datapoints as sensitive, after drilling down to look at data about travel, shopping intent, and interests we found their sensitivity tracked very close to 0%.

After people saw their profiles in most cases they shrugged and said “this is what all the fuss is about??” We saw the same behavior after the Acxiom dashboard was launched last week, and their data is arguably more sensitive because it includes much more granular details and is tied to a name and social security number.

So consumers aren’t alarmed or offended when they see data. But how do regulators feel about transparency?

“A recurring theme I have emphasized — and one that runs through the agency’s privacy work — is the need to move commercial data practices into the sunlight. For too long, the way personal information is collected and used has been at best an enigma ‘enshrouded in considerable smog.’ We need to clear the air.”

The Privacy Challenges of Big Data: A View from the Lifeguard’s Chair by FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez

“Consumers have a right to access and correct personal data in usable formats, in a manner that is appropriate to the sensitivity of the data and the risk of adverse consequences to consumers if the data are inaccurate.”

President Obama’s Privacy Bill of Rights

It’s clear that regulators are in favor of transparency, and consumers are satisfied and generally disinterested once they see profiles, but the advantages of transparency go beyond appeasement. As consumers are made familiar to their online profiles they will find data usage even less sensitive; allowing marketers to leverage data safely in more ways with even less risk of pissing off the consumer.

The best part about transparency is that it’s simple, easy and doesn’t require a business to change how they gather or use data. This is why we’re re-launching Enliken today as Transparency as a Service. We’ve made it easy for any digital marketer to securely and safely disclose consumer profiles.

About the Author: marc_allthingsd Marc is co-founder and CEO of Enliken, a consumer friendly data company. He’s an advocate for transparency around the gathering, use and retention of data. Previously Marc was founding CEO of Spongecell, he holds a degree in Social Decision Sciences from Carnegie Mellon University.  Follow Marc on Twitter @guldi.

Tags: , ,


Comments are closed.