questions about data collection

Data Collection and Respect for Privacy

June 11, 20236 min read

Show some respect for privacy

to make sure there's always something in the data for you

Your business needs customer data.

Which means you need to collect it.

You are bombarded with sales calls about how you should be collecting more personal data, using it to "personalise" your products or customer experiences. All sorts of jargon is thrown at you,

  • "First party data"

  • "Zero party data" (I can assure you that is a thing...)

  • "AI"

Yes everything at the time of writing seems like it is better with AI or Artificial Intelligence. All that data, all that babble. It's hard to keep up isn't it? Yet one thing is true:

When you collect customer data for your business, you take on the responsibility to look after it.

There is more to this than some of your technology or marketing system providers would have you believe. It's not difficult to do either. And let's face it, we all want to know that our information is safe when we provide it as part of a purchase we want to make.

Yet there is still a lot of disinformation and misleading nonsense out there when it comes to YOUR responsibility for collecting and using personal data. So it's time for me to weigh in as a Responsible Data User and tell you some things you need to know.

People expect you to collect some data

Most people aren't stupid. Nor are they living in the dark ages. Individuals are now better informed and more aware of why and how their personal information must be collected and used. They know that their data often forms part of the product or service they need to buy.

People have expectations of privacy

When someone visits your premises or your website, they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. They know what they are willing to share and not willing to share. This will vary from person to person but the amount people are prepared to share depends on a simple calculation: The level of privacy they think you're going to give them divided by their expectation of privacy for the task in hand.

So as long as the impression they get from you is that you are going to respect their privacy and data to a level which meets or exceeds their own expectations, there is a good chance they will trust you enough to share with you what you ask of them.

The more information you ask for, the more pressure you place on that impression you transmit - and the higher their expectation of privacy becomes.

So for example, if the impression you give = 1

and their expectation = 2

then the result is 1/2, or 0.5

on the other hand if the impression you give = 2

and their expectation = 2

then the result is 2/2, or 1.0

For an exchange of mutual value and benefit to happen, that calculation needs to be equal to or greater than 1. That's the point at which the exchange is based on trust and the relationship becomes mutually beneficial.

When data sharing happens and the calculation value is less than 1 it is based on something other than trust. For example greed or fear of missing out. These are quite acceptable buyer motivations for one-off transactions but they are not solid building blocks for building relationships and driving revenue. The exchange will be one-sided and temporary. Which is fine if that's all you're going for.

This little calculation is constantly cycling in the background of a person's mind while they go through a buying process with you. Every time you ask for information it triggers.

The calculation is part of how an individual seeks evidence to answer the basic question on their mind:

"If I give you my data, will you cause me a problem? Now or in the future?"

Your answer is in the privacy information you publish in places such as your website.

The problem is if you are using one of those awful "privacy policy" documents which is based on a cheap template or has been copied from somewhere else, then your answer is never going to meet or exceed anyone's expectation of privacy.

Because the impression you give will always be lower than the expectation.

How you can meet expectations of privacy

Make a small change in your approach.

Think of respect for privacy, combined with some data protection, as a "primer" or "undercoat" for your glossy coat of "data collection" paint.

When you apply some lovely, shiny, gloss paint to a piece of wood, you need to make sure it is applied on top of a decent surface of undercoat. Otherwise it won't look as good as it could, it will flake off and need to be painted over again. It won't last as long.

In other words if you don't base your data collection and use on something solid and reliable, your processing of that data will be seriously compromised. Which means wasting time and money on your part.

...and that's not what you want is it?

No. It isn't. Which is why you need to take some responsibility for the personal data you want to collect and use. You need to demonstrate that you are a responsible data user.

It's not all that hard to do either. It starts with the basic data protection principles:

  1. You must use personal data lawfully, fairly and transparently - You must have a lawful basis for doing what you want to do, it must be fair and you must be clear about what you want to do with other people's information - preferably before you do it;

  2. When you collect personal data it must be for a single, defined purpose (of course, you can have lots of different purposes but you must be clear about what each of them is);

  3. For each of these purposes, you must collect only the data you need to fulfil it;

  4. The data you collect must be accurate;

  5. You must only keep the data for as long as is needed for the specific purpose (you can't keep data "just in case");

  6. The data must be kept safe, not interfered with or compromised and must be kept confirential - when people share their information with you they expect to get it back in the same condition as it was when they gave it to you;

  7. You must prove you can deliver on these first six points.

If you do all these things - and make it clear that you do them - then your chances of creating and keeping trust based marketing and sales relationships increase.

In summary

  • Get the primer coat right or your shiny new data you collect will quickly flake and tarnish.

  • Follow the principles.  This is basic stuff and is as easy to get right as it is to get wrong - and many businesses have still got this wrong. There is not a forfeit of results caused by respecting people's privacy and their data.

  • Should you collect data? Of course you should! You need it to build relationships and drive revenue.

  • Should you protect data?  Of course you should! You want to be able to use it again don’t you?

  • Should you respect privacy?  Of course you should! You want your customers to trust you enough to pay what you ask and make repeat purchases don’t you?

How do you put all this in place in your business? You can start by making an appointment for a free assessment.

That way, when people want to know if they can trust you with their data, your answer is less likely to be 0.5.

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Allan Simpson

Privacy management blogger

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