Cambridge Analytica. Massive Google breaches. GDPR. Consumer data privacy seems to be at the top of everyone’s mind these days. If you were paying attention to the news recently, you likely saw Apple’s CEO Tim Cook speak to growing user privacy challenges when he issued a scathing critique of consumer data practices by global tech giants, which he said have grown into a ‘data industrial complex,’ according to TechCrunch.
While Cook didn’t call out Google or Facebook per se, his intended targets were clearly global data repositories of this ilk. That said, his assertions inevitably impact brands who are reliant upon consumer data — that is, QuanticMind’s digital marketer and advertiser customers who just want to run their businesses and meet revenue goals, while providing the best and most personalized consumer experience possible.
So how can businesses leverage consumer data to their advantage while simultaneously adhering to compliance regulations and respecting the privacy of their users? Perhaps surprisingly, these concepts are not mutually exclusive. We provide a few insights into how we make that happen.
A Growing ‘Data Industrial Complex’
First, what is meant by the term ‘data industrial complex’? During a keynote speech at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC), Cook asserted that digital data is being collected, compiled and then — in many cases — used as weapons against individuals, communities, and societies. Among other things, he underscored that the global data aggregators were conducting practices in which consumer information was “carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold” — often without their knowledge or consent — portending dire consequences for the future of user privacy, security and trust.
According to the article, Cook said “Taken to the extreme this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your profile is a bunch of algorithms that serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into harm.”
And while AI “promises to learn from people individually to benefit us all” he said its role of “collecting huge personal profiles is laziness, not efficiency.”
“For artificial intelligence to be truly smart it must respect human values — including privacy. If we get this wrong, the dangers are profound,” he maintained.
The problem is clearly complex, nuanced and enormous. But to make steps toward resolving the problem, Cook cited implementing comprehensive privacy reforms, such as those incorporated in Europe’s newly enacted GDPR, which he said combine “good policy and political will.”
“It is time for the rest of the world, including my home country, to follow your lead,” he said.
Yet, the vast majority of brands aren’t global data aggregators that broker consumer information to the highest bidder. Rather, they leverage consumer data to better target and serve customers, facilitating brand awareness and customer loyalty to ensure customer needs are met. The question then remains: how do these brands achieve their revenue targets and remain profitable while also being sensitive to data privacy issues and growing consumer awareness?
The answer lies in being able to clearly see both sides of the issue, and striking a balance between doing what’s right for the success of your business, and doing what’s right for your customers.
The Data Problem: Privacy vs. Profitability
On opposite sides of the spectrum, you have both brands and consumers. Brands need to advertise to attract customers. Consumers need products and services sold by brands.
Tech behemoths like Google, Facebook and Microsoft represent a class of digital middlemen that offer “free” products and services to engage with consumers in an effort to help brands reach targeted and desired users via advertising.
Therein lies the conundrum. In their efforts to gather consumer audiences, these data giants are creating very rich data repositories, that also have the potential to be misused, exploited or otherwise compromised. And if recent privacy scandals are any indication, the possibility that user data will somehow fall into the wrong hands is an increasingly likely risk when these platforms are leveraged.
Now if you’re a consumer in a nation governed by GDPR, you can go to any company and ask them for a comprehensive view of interactions with them. You can ask them what they know about you, and ask for the right to be “forgotten.” A person in Europe can go to Facebook, for example, and get access to their data and invoke the right to essentially have it erased.
You ostensibly can do that with brands too — although it’s much more difficult. One of the reasons is that they need some kind of system in place that allows them to both gather data when it’s provided and throttle back when users want privacy.
The problem is twofold. For one, if all the users in Europe went to data monoliths like Facebook and Google and asked them to be forgotten, the ability for brands to target users — and thus, do business — would be dramatically affected. For some brands, the inability to leverage platforms like Google for targeted advertising and other marketing activities would decimate revenues or put them out of business altogether.
Secondly, many brands leverage dozens, hundreds or even thousands of disparate, unintegrated and siloed systems in their digital advertising efforts. That means they simply might not have the technical resources, expertise or manpower to accurately filter user data, or even adhere to privacy mandates — even if they wanted to. In fact, the vast majority of brands want to do right by users privacy wishes. Unfortunately, many just don’t know how.
QuanticMind: Seeing Both Sides of the Spectrum
That’s where we enter this matrix. QuanticMind cares about doing the right thing — by our customers, and also by our customers’ customers. That means we care about our customers’ ability to reach new audiences, elevate their brand and expand their business. We also care about and respect consumer privacy and the laws that govern that privacy.
In short, QuanticMind enables the technology for brands to be able to honor what consumers want — which, in addition to products and services, also includes privacy.
To be clear, we’re not on the same list as Google, Facebook and the like. Our customers simply use those platforms as avenues to advertise. Users look to brands to provide personalized, relevant messaging while providing access to goods and services that they need in their daily lives. QuanticMind offers advertisers the vehicle to help keep this promise.
But, as we mentioned, we care about both sides of the space. And as part of that handshake, we’re also committed to doing the right thing. If some consumers want privacy or to be “forgotten” under GDPR, then we enable the technology to do that too. QuanticMind’s platform can provide that filter, helping our customers to effectively and strategically leverage the data that they are given, while being able to separate out the data that consumers prefer not to share. The result is a more efficient and profitable PPC strategy for our customers, who can then increase and maintain their own customers’ satisfaction with the ability to respect their privacy wishes.
Essentially we help each side remain in balance. Our mission is to help brands advertise to the right people at the right time with the right message. But we’re also stepping up to help brands navigate a post-privacy world by doing the right thing by their customers.
Abject data aggregation — that data industrial complex to which Tim Cook referred — aimed at building detailed profiles against the wishes of users is not the right thing. Instead of using AI to build “huge personal profiles,” we are leveraging our intelligence capabilities to “respect human values — including privacy.”
We understand that it’s our responsibility to help our customers, but we’re only helping them if we’re also thinking about their customers as well. As Tim Cook said “We can achieve both great artificial intelligence and great privacy standards. It is not only a possibility — it is a responsibility.”
We are taking that responsibility to heart.