1securityHow to keep customer data safe, while making use of ad tech data to gain a more holistic view of customers’ behavior in the digital space, has been vividly discussed for quite some time already. Mobile marketing research and the accompanying data collection is just the ‘dot on the i’ of the constant debates.

Undeniably, the privacy and security challenges each and every marketer has to tackle on a daily basis are steadily growing. The precarious situation is forcing the marketing industry to determine loud and clearly how they control and use the data, especially since more and more of them embrace highly sophisticated, tech-driven digital media buying technology. But what seems to simplify their life at first could lump them in the end together with competitors and frenemies.

Staying informed on changing preferences and demands of the customers, without involving data-driven process for intelligent evaluation, isn’t an option since they have become the crucial driver for efficient marketing strategies and action planning. The huge number of tracking and analysis tools out there is telling ist own tale. Still, the use of these tools often runs the risk of losing valuable customer data to competitors. Therefore, you might want to consider the following when choosing a tracking and analysis service:

Free offers vs. data security

Decision-makers are of course well-aware of the potential additional value of tracking tools. With ad tech tools like analytics, heat mapping or retargeting, target groups can be clustered and appropriate measures to attract and retain customers planned in detail, all that requires however not only a variety of expertise but includes as well considerable expenses. Given the usually tight marketing budgets, people in charge often shy away from implementing them. Of course, some vendors have started to recognize this gap and provide free services for tracking and analysis, but what seems promising at first glance has often a huge catch: Although the own data can be evaluated profitably with the help of these tools, you should bear in mind that the competition uses these algorithms, too. It means that often the users are not aware that they have no rights to their data and that external parties have access to the source as well.

Data loss shortly after

The speed at which it comes to mixing the own and other data, or how quickly competitors can gain access to the data, is illustrated by a very simple experiment: In a fully adjusted browser environment - without history and cookies -  very specific products were searched and bought, such as in this case, a particular pair of sports shoes. Just ten days later, banners and deals on this particular pair of shoes as well as similar shoes were displayed. A significant loss of data privacy was caused by sharing the information of the original requested with other competing brands. Fact is that especially with suppliers of free services there is great danger that competitors benefit.

Understand data leaks by know where the data goes

Once external analytics services can collect data from your website, third parties are also in possession of the information and - depending on the contract - able to use or sell this data. This is an essential aspect of the operating mode of ad tech. Most important is to understand here that there is no general right or wrong. There is a mass of different tools out there that can detect and analyze even the smallest detail, which is why decision-makers should focus on two or three appropriate tools that allow them to explain the use of the data. Because, the more tools are used on the website, the higher the risk of data leakage.

Develop your own data control with partners

Whoever wants to play it safe in the long run, should bring forward as much internal expertise as possible to fully utilize their own data. Experienced partners can of course provide valuable support with solutions that are tailored and implemented in your own system. However, it is important that the partners establish full transparency of data and processes, especially when providing interfaces to third parties.

Integrate data protection and revenue-sharing clauses

Not all participants in the ad tech system work the same, that’s why some are more at risk of data loss than others. So, if third-party tools are compulsory, clauses of any data usages should be included in the contract. Once others are using the data profitably, this could e.g. result in a demand for profit sharing.

Whether you are labeled a data processor or data controller, you have to deal with data adequately and responsibly. You risk your neck with handling data, but it can be as valuable for marketers as physical currency, as control over data has many revenue-driving benefits. A simple advice to stay safe is trying to hold as few data controller roles as possible and not to use collected data in any way that crosses into data controller territory to get around the generally tough regulatory requirements.

The regulatory framework along with definitions of data processing and controlling will likely continue to evolve in the near future, as seen in Europe, and hopefully all parties will work together toward the same goal of ensuring all customer data is secure and used properly at all times.

By Daniela La Marca