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III - Thou shalt treasure thy data

Move over gold, myrrh and incense. The true treasure these days is data, so you should treat it as such. People are becoming increasingly aware of how much personal data they leave behind, and it’s a reason to be cautious. Are you asking consumers for data? Be transparent about why you need it and what’s in it for them.

Why you need to be information sensitive

The days when online companies could shamelessly farm data are behind us. GDPR was launched as the first European legal framework for corporate data gathering and use, but the surge of privacy concerns goes beyond mere legal constraints.

We’re slowly entering the age of consent. Not (just) the ‘#MeToo’ type of consent, but consent when it comes to data. Not that long ago, people would consent to any type of data gathering online without questioning it. Nowadays, many people are much more critical. Adblockers are on the rise, privacy concerns in apps like WhatsApp chase users away, and many people think twice before clicking ‘accept all cookies’.

Looking for more on this subject? Have you read our piece on FrankWatching on what the cookieless future looks like?

Personal information should be treated with the highest sensitivity. There are two data collection guidelines that are set in stone. As obvious as they may sound, these principles are all too often ignored. If you truly want to be information sensitive, these should be your top priority.

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1. Only capture as much data as you need

How much data you ‘need’ depends on your business. As a general principle, consider how much data you need to offer value to consumers.

If you’re hosting an online store and a customer wants a package delivered at home, then obviously some identification needs to occur: a shipping address, maybe an email to keep track of the shipment... Even then, some people prefer to order with anonymous guest accounts and have their packages delivered at pick-up locations that aren’t their homes. If they doopt for this, don’t ask for their name and address anyway.

Some people are willing to share more personal data in return for personalized services (recommendation engines, discounts, newsletters,...), others aren’t. Respect the privacy of users that are not comfortable sharing data.

People will question why you need certain information if it is unrelated to the transactionor has no clear added value. If visitors wonder “why do they need all this information?”, you’re probably asking for too much. Another important factor is trust. If your consumer already knows and trusts your organization, it’s easier to ask for additional information. Too much too fast will scare them away and leave the hard-to-erase stain of distrust around your service or product.

Let he who is without sin...

At MultiMinds, we’ve experienced this very issue ourselves. In our free Data Maturity Assessment, we saw a big drop in visitors as soon as we asked for user information. We soon realized we were asking for too much and giving too little. We adapted the flow, and now only ask for very limited information before offering a report. Only when visitors want more detail and an in-depth analysis do we request more information. The result:a sharp decrease in the number of dropouts. The lesson here? Offer users value before asking for their information.

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2. Be transparent about the data you ask and use

Although there is still a large group of people who are oblivious to the data trails they’re leaving behind, the privacy-conscious group is steadily growing. If your business has not adapted to this critical mass of consumers, you will lose them at some point. The key is transparency. Tell users what kind of data you need, and what you’re doing with it.

Every organization is bound by privacy regulations (which nobody reads). But an upcoming trend is the privacy charter. This is a very brief and concise statement explaining what your stance on privacy is – in accessible language, not legalese. Take a look at Apple’s privacy page. It opens with the statement “Privacy is a fundamental human right”, before digging into the legal specifics.

This offers an excellent way of communicating your privacy policy to visitors, earning their trust and respecting their privacy–at least, if you practice what you preach. It is, without a doubt,the way forward in the age of consent.