Unilever to simplify data privacy comms to head off consumer concerns

Unilever is planning an overhaul of its approach to communicating privacy policies to make them more understandable and assure customers it is not “surreptitiously mining” their personal details.  

Unilever Facebook page

Earlier today (25 June) Jamie Barnard, Unilever’s general counsel, digital and privacy, explained how the FMCG giant aims to assure consumers of its approach to data capture and use. It is implementing a privacy compliance programme, which included the appointment of its first global privacy officer last year.

This will involve the Dove and Magnum maker informing its social audiences how it will use their data in digital marketing for its brands, particularly in social marketing.

“Are we doing privacy by design – I’d say we’re on ‘Day One’,” he added.

“In a year’s time everything will have a social element – and through that will come the privacy,” he explained. “When we get that right we’ll be able to do digital really well.”

Customer concern over use of data by brands is growing. A recent ICO study found that 97 per cent of people were concerned that organisations would pass or sell-on their personal details.

Disparate data and consumer privacy legislation, in the EU and across the globe, make it difficult to explain how it uses data in terms understandable to the general public, Barnard added. 

This is particularly a problem as many of Unilever’s brands roll out campaigns on a global basis, he said.

Most regulators force companies to explain their privacy T&Cs in long, complicated documents that most people do not read fully, he added.

“It’s going to get to a point that someone takes legal action [against someone like iTunes] and asks ‘how much permission did you have [to use consumer data]?”

Explaining some of the challenges in achieving this transparency with consumers he said: “We [as an industry] are not being commercial about it, we’re being legal about it [due to over-complicated regulation].

Barnard added: “If red tape is reduced then compliance with data protection protocols will increase, as well as help boost innovation in digital marketing.”  

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