Apple is pushing for change when it comes to consumer privacy and control of data. They haven’t been tiptoeing around the issue either; the latest news is that the new operating system to be released this fall will have a whole host of new privacy tools. They’ve essentially tripled down on privacy, implementing things like no separate sign-in services for sites like Facebook and Google, to avoid the collection of user information; device-local Machine Learning and bot detection; tracking pixel detection and much more. (In related news, they’ll also be making Siri more friendly. I’m looking forward to that.)
So what is the philosophy driving this hyper-focus on consumer privacy? We can certainly attribute a big part of it to consumer demand, as the population becomes more concerned with protecting their personal information. Additionally, people are starting to understand that their data is a valuable asset, and are tired of giving it away for free. This trend will definitely impact the marketing industry, as the challenge for getting insights into consumer behavior will rise exponentially.
How can marketers keep up? There are some general approaches and philosophies that are likely driving these moves by Apple and must be considered on a larger scale.
- Data minimalism: a method in which you only collect what data you need and if unsure, you don’t collect it. As we pass through an era of big data, where the objective was to collect it ALL and then figure out what was important, it’s time to take a step back. The reality is that every bit of data collected about an individual is a liability and can pose privacy risks. We need to start asking serious questions about each and every piece of user data and see the entire process from the user perspective. Every piece of data collected must serve a direct business outcome, as well as keeping the best interests of the consumer in mind. If you can’t be totally transparent on collection and use of a piece of data, you probably shouldn’t collect it.
- End-to-end encryption and “zero-knowledge” service providers. How much of your job can you do without having access to unencrypted data? For example, in the marketing research space, there are vendors for survey respondents, reporting tools and survey platforms that operate as intermediaries between the consumer/research participant and the research organization (a brand or agency). This service can actually be provided without having direct access to any unencrypted data, and without drawing from a centralized database. This is analogous to apps like WhatsApp where end-to-end encryption is utilized to ensure secure communication. Any entity that potentially handles any sensitive data, including user and health data, can benefit from employing these techniques to ensure data is protected and unnecessary liability is avoided. Fortunately, along with the interest in blockchain and bitcoin technologies, we’ve seen considerable advancement in cryptographic techniques which enable new opportunities for secure communication.
- Device-local data processing absolves organizations from direct data ownership. This approach allows consumers can take back control and security of their own data is by storing it “on the edge” or on their own devices. By keeping a tight rein on their data, and keeping sensitive information out of databases, this changes the game not only for them (they are better able to monetize their data and choose who uses it) but for marketers. Now the focus shifts from taking measures to keep the database-stored data secure, to finding new ways to connect with the respondents.
Apple has the level of clout needed to raise awareness around privacy issues to an all-time high. Their foray into advanced security and privacy features promises to drive advancements in software and illustrate the possibility that devices have to play in the future of consumer privacy. Consumers will see that more is possible when it comes to protecting their own data, and demands will become even greater for others to provide the same level of protection.