5privacyAs access to data becomes increasingly important in driving business success, regulatory bodies are pressured to safeguard the way companies are exploiting data. However, on the one hand many believe that there is a need for legislation to facilitate cyber-security, on the other hand the freedom on the Internet shouldn’t be cuffed as the business community recognizes the tremendous opportunities and challenges inherent in our interconnected world.

Nobody doubts that the Internet has transformed the global economy and connected people in new and exciting ways, but let’s look at the other side of the coin and the fact that it changes so quickly that it is difficult for any legislation to protect its users effectively in the fast-paced and agile environment. Detection and prevention of illicit data exploitation can be quite difficult.

Indeed, the world of communication changed from fussy privacy to extreme openness - and somewhere in between lie online activities. While it is repeatedly drummed into us to be open and committed on the Internet, privacy is still an important issue in our daily business communications with customers and prospects.

Therefore it can’t hurt to consider the following four tips to help your marketing to always respect the privacy of prospective customers:

1. On social media channels

Each social network usually releases a series of rules and regulations that define clearly which privacy policies and terms apply, so make sure that you respect their "etiquette" if you are active there. These privacy policies of social networks should be, instead, seen as a guideline for your communication, so know and understand what is allowed or not within each network as it helps you to avoid possible accusations of invasion of privacy. XING, for example, has strict rules how contests and promotions must be carried out. So, if you consider launching a campaign on any social media channel, you should know about their regulations and be well versed in the user agreements of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Be assured that from time to time you will even be surprised what you can learn, helping you in your effort not to violate any of these guidelines with your marketing activities.

2. Regarding online surveys

When customers and prospects are called on to fill out surveys, they are often asked for general background information in order to be able to better understand and analyze the different groups of people who participated in the survey. This background information, however, such as location, company name, etc. are often not as primitive as it may seem, but actually very specific. And that’s exactly why such questions frighten potential responders: it gives them the feeling that they lose their anonymity and privacy - most probably preventing them from fully completing the survey. Therefore, be advised to ask only questions that really make sense. In addition, pay close attention to keeping discreet and being on firm ground. Before you even start with a survey, you should develop a plan with the sales and marketing department on what information is required and how it is to be used further. Pass on the latter unconditionally to the informant, so you can ensure that you have worked transparently and in an informed manner regarding the re-use of data, in case there are any complaints.

3. On landing pages

The same applies to landing pages, as they are critical for lead generation, but their included forms can make it tricky and troublesome to transform the prospects into leads. When creating such forms you should be careful to request only the information that is relevant for you, and contact the interested parties at a later date to obtain high-quality leads. On each landing page form, clearly refer to your privacy policy, explain your intentions accurately and make sure to stick to it. Actually, these privacy policies should be omnipresent in all your inbound marketing activities.

4. In e-mail marketing

Unsolicited and non-user-specific e-mail marketing is also subject to a company’s privacy policy. Prospects and customers do not necessarily want to get every single e-mail that’s sent by you. If they get, for instance, on one day product information, they don’t want to get informed again the next day on one of your other services they are not interested in. Potential customers can quickly get annoyed by your obtrusive communication and mark your emails as spam. Instead, send one or two emails per month, in which you address the personal interests of the recipient and provide relevant content. Keep them up to date and make them curious. And especially don’t forget, in addition to a "unsubscribe" button, to always incorporate a link to your privacy policy.

Just last week, for instance, the Singapore parliament passed an amended personal data protection bill to govern the way businesses access and use personal data. Designed to safeguard an individual's personal data against misuse, it even includes a national Do-Not-Call registry and a new enforcement agency will be tasked to regulate the management of personal data by businesses and impose financial penalties.

With its new bill, Singapore will give individuals more control over their personal data, since they have to give consent and be informed of the purposes for which organizations collect, use, or disclose the information. They can seek compensation for damages directly suffered from a breach of the data protection rules through private rights of action.

The government tries to tackle unsolicited telemarketing calls and messages with a National Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry that will be created by early 2014. The registry prohibits organizations in Singapore from sending specified messages to any Singapore telephone number registered with the DNC, unless the owner of the telephone number has given consent to be contacted for marketing purposes.

The biggest challenge policymakers have to master is for sure not to complicate or duplicate existing industry-driven security standards with government mandates and bureaucracies and instead making sure that the private sector doesn’t need to waste time and money to implement robust and effective security measures.

By Daniela La Marca