Brands warned to be more candid over data

Brands need to be more transparent over how they use consumer data for marketing purposes, or risk regulatory penalties plus losing the benefits online media and big data, speakers at an online privacy event warned today. 

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Speaking at the event, Patrick Barwise, professor of management and marketing at London Business School and chairman of Which?, said brands need to employ more brevity when articulating their terms of service to better inform consumers.

He said: “Real consumers don’t want to spend their time reading through lots of text and ticking boxes. If you look at Apple’s terms of service they are [literally] even longer than Macbeth.

“It’s just not reasonable to expect consumers to read all of these and understand them. There has to be more understanding of what real consumers are doing. We need to come back to actual consumer behaviour.”

If brands are not more transparent on how they collect and use behavioural data, then regulators are likely to step in and enforce more stringent measures, which could be time-consuming and expensive to abide by, he added.

Timothy Abraham, a director at Xaxis, an online advertising platform housed within WPP’s GroupM, also said the Your Online Choices campaign had gone some way to better promoting transparency. This has in turn helped contribute towards a more informed acceptance of online advertising among the public.

“Many people know what cookies are, so while they’re not perfect, the fact people know what they are [and don’t opt-out of them] is some form of consent from a consumer,” he added. 

“If you look at [at Apple’s alternative to cookies] IDFA then I’d say that most people don’t know what that is.”

During a separate session at the same event, David Ellison, senior marketing manager at ISBA, went on to warn how companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are set to become even more powerful in the media ecosystem. 

Ellison told attendees that moves away from using cookies to track user behaviour online – this is in part driven by their limited use in tracking mobile user behaviour – was leading to these online platform providers developing proprietary methods of tracking.

He said: “This will keep even more data in their walled garden. Prepare for a shift in power in the online advertising space. As Apple Google, Facebook and witter collect more data they will become more powerful.”  

During a Q&A session, Ellison also called for a more stringent approach from brands towards online age verification.

Although it may be difficult to devise an effective way of enforcing “age gating” on social networks, the potential side effects of any negative publicity could be onerous, and affect the entire industry, added Ellison.   

He said: “We can’t give up on finding better ways to check someone’s age. Surely via your fingerprint, it couldn’t be that difficult to confirm your age. I think this is something we should look at.” 

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