Chris Babel

Today I am speaking at Marketing 2: The Personalization Revolution, a virtual, hour-long micro-conference hosted by ThoughtLead featuring 59 other panelists. We have been asked to provide our insight on personalized marketing and I will speak to the importance of privacy in this growing space. Some might think that privacy is irrelevant , pointing to countless instances around the web that demonstrate consumers’ increasing willingness to share more information about themselves in exchange for free goods or services or simply for the sake of socializing. I don’t contest that observation – the amount and types of information being voluntary and publicly shared on the web today (think location, photos, personal status, and even purchase records) is astounding when we look back at the state of online affairs a decade ago. However, consumers’ willingness to share personal information does not mean that they no longer care about sharing this information in trusted environments. They do. I could point to any number of surveys supporting this conclusion, but the strongest possible evidence I could offer up is the positive impact our privacy seal has on our clients’ websites. We have conducted numerous A/B tests of our privacy seal and find that our seal’s presence consistently increases consumers’ willing to share their personal information and engage a site.

Privacy isn’t dead, we just need to re-conceptualize it. It’s not about how much or how little information you share, it’s about whether you trust the environment in which you share that information. Does that environment provide you with transparency, accountability and choice regarding your personal information? At TRUSTe we believe these are the three key principles of strong privacy practices and as personalized marketing becomes more prevalent companies need to make sure they build these principles into their activities, not just to protect consumers, but because at the end of the day it will actually increase the effectiveness of personalized marketing. Most consumers would prefer more relevant advertising, but most consumers would also prefer that they can see how it works (transparency), that the company doing it protects their information and responds to problems (accountability) and that they retain meaningful control over the use of their data (choice).

Fortunately, the personalized marketing movement has started to recognize that privacy, as I’ve outlined above, has a place at the table. Major browsers, like IE9, have built tracking protection features into their latest releases that allow consumers to opt-out of online tracking. The broader advertising industry, led by the Digital Advertising Alliance, has begun to adopt a self-regulatory program that provides consumers with notice and choice around online behavioral advertising. TRUSTe has supported both of these efforts (through our Tracking Protection List and TRUSTed Ads compliance platform) and we look forward to helping more companies make a place for privacy in their personalized marketing strategies.