Nick Wilkerson, Director, Strategic Analytics + Insight at LEAP recently helped bridge the gap between brands who gather consumer information, and those consumers who willingly, or unwillingly, participate in the process.
For insight into the brand / consumer marketing game, read Nick Wilkerson’s interview.
We all know brands want to know more about their consumers, but sometimes consumers don’t love the process. How can consumers control their participation in a brands effort to gather research and analytics?
WILKERSON: Consumers need to remember that the web segregates “personal information” into two main categories that are treated differently—“personally identifiable information (PII)” and “non –personally identifiable information”.
PII includes such elements as name, address, telephone number, email address, financial account numbers, social security numbers, and any other data that can be used to identify, contact or precisely locate you. PII is usually provided by completing forms, profiles or through other direct, voluntary means by consumers. PII is safeguarded through industry codes and should be isolated from non-PII data.
Non-PII consists primarily of click stream data such as sites you have visited, links you have clicked, etc. This information is gathered through a randomly-generated anonymous identifier and is effectively considered “fair game” for advertising and promotional purposes either by the site (suggested other purchases, viewings, etc.) or by third parties (such as advertising networks).
Consumers have several options to limit access to their personal information online. They can limit their completion of forms, profiles and other features to minimize access to PII. They can also use a variety of browser controls, add on utilities or “opt-out” tools to limit access to non-PII. Both the Network Advertising Initiative (“NAI”) and the Digital Advertising Alliance (“DAA”) provide opt-out tools on their respective sites.
Consumers often incorrectly assume, however, that these controls will eliminate online ads all together. Instead, it eliminates targeted ads from being seen. Consumers who opt out or limit cookies will still see online advertising, but it will not be selected based on their interests, much like print ads in traditional media are seen by a broad audience.
Should consumers be leery?
WILKERSON: Consumers will need to decide for themselves their level of comfort in sharing personal information online. I suspect this will vary on a site-by-site basis for many consumers.
One outstanding feature of the web is its ability to offer a customized experience to each visitor—uniquely tailored to one’s taste in entertainment, publications, sports, etc. This degree of customization is available due to tracking of our behavior and interests.
For instance, Netflix’s stated objective in providing individual profiles within a household is to help focus suggested viewing lists. As envisioned by Netflix, suggested viewing lists for one’s children will be limited to age-appropriate entertainment based on their profiles and no longer include “Breaking Bad”, “The Walking Dead”, “Boardwalk Empire” and other adult fare that the parents are watching after hours. Each Netflix household will have to determine for itself if this benefit is worth the loss of privacy required.
What are some red flags consumer should be aware of?
WILKERSON: The Marketing Research Association has developed a “Respondent Bill of Rights” that governs all surveys and research studies whether conducted online or by traditional means. Besides fundamental protection of the privacy of your individual responses and your PII, it also establishes several obligations on the part of the researcher.
The identity of the researcher, the name of the research organization and the general nature of the survey or study should be disclosed to you as a respondent. You cannot be sold anything or asked for money under the guise of research. You have the right to refuse to participate or to participate at a more convenient time. And, your decisions about participation have to be respected.
If any of these disclosures or obligations is not present, then I would recommend that a respondent immediately refuse to participate.
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