Data Privacy Day - “why not a year, or a decade”? 13 marketers’ on AI security, privacy as currency and ‘always-on awareness’

Has privacy become just another ‘selling point'? When will adland become completely cookie-less? And how can we be sure AI is processing data ethically? PMWs panel of experts discuss the big issues ahead of Data Privacy Day tomorrow.

More than 15 years after the first Data Privacy Day (originally Data Protection Day), the question for the annual recognition, in the marketing industry at least, is – why just one day?

The Council of Europe, the continent’s central human rights group, says the day is recognised to “educate the public on data protection challenges and inform individuals about their rights to exercise them”. But for marketers, this has been front and centre of discussion and strategy year in, year out, without the need of a day to ‘remind’ them.

What has perhaps shifted is attitudes. What meant huge sea-changes to practices and tactics when new regulations, and increased customer awareness and mistrust, came to the fore, is becoming an always-on strategy pillar that marketers are increasingly seeing as an opportunity. It’s also accepted that, rather than a barrier to overcome or circumvent, a right to our privacy is something that all of us should take as a given.

While a day to ‘recognise’ data privacy may seem a little passe, it does give us pause to assess how far we have come, what we still have to do, and how, in an industry that sees change and innovation much more often than a one-a-year remembrance, do marketers need to continue to adapt?

PMW quizzed a panel of experts on the latest impacts on privacy, from their thoughts on artificial intelligence to new regulations and what this means for the marketing industry going forward.

“Why not a year, or decade, of data privacy”?

Jean-Christophe Peube, EVP, Delivery Excellence, Equativ: “The idea of one 24-hour spotlight has always felt odd: why not a year, or decade, of data privacy?

“Our manifesto has always centred around transparency, fairness, and honest dealing. Following multiple industry scandals, demand for such open dealing has started to grow at pace, alongside dissatisfaction with walled gardens looking to obscure auction dynamics for their own gain.

“Buyers and sellers keen to trade on trust are leaning towards those who play a clean game and follow privacy-first measures to deliver solid, unassailable results, instead of simply prioritising maximum scale by any means. This direction will be better for everyone, if we only keep momentum strong in this area.”

Kurre Ståhlberg, Head of Security, Supermetrics: “GDPR regulations catapulted data confidentiality to the forefront of our minds. But it’s not policy changes, or indeed awareness days like Data Privacy Day, when we should only worry about protecting information.

“Instead, data privacy needs to be considered all-year round, especially amongst marketing businesses and in-house teams as they handle sensitive customer information including names, emails, and behavioural insights.

“If this type of data were to fall into the wrong hands, it could be used for identity theft, fraud, or other malicious activity. In addition to the potential financial damage, a data breach could also harm an organisation’s reputation and lead to a loss of customer trust – in today’s current economic climate, such an event could have lasting and irreversible damage.”

“Privacy is no longer a restriction – but a selling point”

Paul Wright, GM Western Europe and MENAT, AppsFlyer: “Data Privacy Day serves as an important reminder to companies that privacy rights are human rights. To date, the advertising industry has largely viewed privacy as a ball and chain on the ankle of business, but in 2023 I expect this perception to shift. Privacy is no longer a restriction but a selling point. As a result, industry players are beginning to treat it as a worthwhile investment rather than a cost.

“Hopefully this investment will enable internal departments such as legal, product, and security to share responsibility, alongside dedicated privacy teams, in making privacy a foundational element of future thinking business.”

James Evans, Chief Privacy Officer and VP of Legal, TripleLift: “The direction of travel for privacy across the globe is clear: the user comes first, data collection and use must be transparent, accountability needs to be pervasive, and user controls must be effective.

“New privacy laws are emerging and existing ones evolving across the Americas, Europe and the APAC regions. The eye watering fines coming out of Europe are impacting behaviour, but more optimistically businesses are increasingly aware of the benefits that getting privacy right has on their users, brand reputation, and the bottom line.

“First-party data solutions will play a big role in the new marketing landscape, giving marketers the opportunity to reach their audiences in effective and sustainable ways, while serving relevant ads that are powered by responsible data practices.”

Tony Marlow, CMO, LG Ad Solutions: “In a privacy-first world, ad-supported models of streaming television have become even more prevalent. The need for fully opted-in and privacy-compliant methods of delivering relevant ads to the biggest screen in the home has never been more important.

“Marketers that choose to have a direct-to-glass CTV strategy not only have the confidence of fully opted-in viewership trends, but are also able to ensure their advertising messages are relevant for the household, all while meeting and exceeding GDPR compliance in the EU and UK. This is a win-win for both European consumers and for advertisers; consumers receive the content they want, for free, and marketers are able to make meaningful connections with the right audiences, all while maintaining a highly privacy friendly approach.”

Lucia Mastromauro, Managing Director, Acceleration UK: “When it comes to unique value, many advertisers should be happy to know that within their businesses there is a wealth of data, likely stored across different parts of the business that can be activated for media performance. Ensuring data is being stored and handled according to the expectations of consumers and rules set out by regulators and leveraged for business value is more key than ever.

“Businesses that invest in clearly defined data strategies, that foster good data practices and data governance will reap the benefit to be more relevant for their customers. Looking at how data is created by a brands’ customer experience is a key part in understanding the data lineage, and how those customer interactions could change to provide them more benefits for sharing their information.”

“We should be asking: how can we be sure AI is processing data ethically?”

Rob Sewell, CEO, SmartFrame Technologies: “Online feeds have recently exploded with AI-related news, discussing the technology’s progress and increasing capabilities as a generative model. But deep learning models require vast amounts of data to function. The industry should be asking: how can users and companies be sure AI is processing data not only according to evolving data legislation, but also ethically?

“The Data Act, the AI Act, and the Digital Services Act are European frameworks seeking to address these issues, but globally, these regulations are still not standardised. Moving forward, businesses need to make rigorous checks, balances, and risk assessments to ensure they are doing right by their customers with privacy-compliant and future-proof solutions.”

Charlie Johnson, VP International, Digital Element: ​​“The explosion of VPN solutions in recent years is impossible to ignore – a key tool both businesses and consumers rely on for remote working and anonymous browsing. But while using a VPN isn’t wrong, it can be very dangerous.

“There are many fake and malicious VPNs that collect user data to sell to the highest bidder, or act as trojan horses to introduce malware onto people’s devices. Those simply trying to maintain their privacy are unwittingly doing the opposite – compromising their own sensitive information and putting everything from images and documents to passwords and crypto-wallets at risk.”

Evgeny Popov, Executive VP and GM, Global Sales, Verve Group: “I expect to see more focus on the future of signal-less ecosystems and a move toward ID-less insights, whether they be index-based or affinity-driven. When the market evolves to a completely ID-/IP-less phase, we will be dependent on contextual or cohort targeting.”

“A reactive stance puts marketers on the back foot – look toward solutions with privacy built in”

Louis-Philippe Denis, Global Chief Legal and Privacy Officer, Hivestack: “With new legislation being regularly implemented, marketers will quickly find themselves on the back foot if they adopt a reactive stance. Instead, it is time to embrace the privacy revolution and look towards solutions that have transparency and privacy built in.

“Programmatic digital out-of-home (OOH) is able to harness the ability to reach audiences at scale with probabilistic, historical mobile location data to target audiences in a more granular way. This evolves OOH from a ‘one-to-many’ medium, to ‘one-to-select-many’ targeting approach. This privacy-first attitude is one all advertisers should work towards, and we need to continue to strive for a transparent, compliance-focused approach to data management.”

Chandru Narayana, CTO, Alkimi Exchange: “Now more than ever, advertisers must move away from monoliths pretending to support data privacy, and, instead, participate in decentralised ad exchanges that provide complete data transparency control and auditability, whilst optimising ad spend. Truthful transactions and complete control of consumer data, provided via blockchain technology, are the way forward, not only for maximising data privacy but for creating and maintaining a more efficient, future-proofed digital ad ecosystem.”

“Assistance is still required for marketers to confidently navigate legislations”

Lloyd Davies, Managing Director, Making Science UK: “Tech players have been searching for and developing ways to compliantly overcome privacy challenges since the planned removal of third-party cookies was announced. However, news that some of Europe’s major telecom companies, including Vodafone, are setting up an alliance to offer a privacy-based digital identification solution to support brands and publishers is a refreshing story of industry partnership. The alliance is a positive development for advertisers seeking more support with privacy-based digital identification, and is an example of how innovative thinking can address the challenge.

“With changes to UK GDPR regulation expected this year, and with still 16% of marketing professionals unsure whether these regulations even apply to them, have not heard of the regulations or are aware but choose to ignore them, assistance is still clearly required for marketers to confidently navigate privacy legislations.”

“Privacy is not a ‘nice to have’”

Brian Lesser, Chairman and CEO, InfoSum: “By the end of 2023 75% of the world's population will have its personal data covered under modern privacy regulation, restricting how companies collect, buy, sell, and use consumer data to track and target across the web. Perhaps most importantly, consumers are now more aware than ever of what happens to their data, with 67% being more vigilant about their online privacy (IAS and YouGov, August 2022).

“In 2023, more companies will come to realise that privacy is no longer a ‘nice to have’. A crucial component of any organisation's first-party data strategy, privacy-enhancing technologies are also a foundational element of running a customer-centric business, and should be the next pillar in the ESG revolution.”