The Current State of Data Privacy Is Complicated

The sheer amount of data being created and collected in today’s digital world is exponentially growing and not showing any signs of slowing down. However, attitudes and regulations towards data privacy and protection are undergoing a seismic shift — both from consumers and business alike. More consumers and businesses have been forced to think about data privacy. We’re in the midst of an ever-changing privacy landscape.

Where Data Privacy Stands Today

The internet has traditionally relied on third-party cookies to enable tracking, audience targeting, consumer experiences, and measurement for years. However, consumers and regulators have become increasingly concerned that companies had been using their data and they were unsure how it was being used — and rightfully so. According to Cisco’s consumer privacy survey, consumers want more transparency from companies about how personal data is used. Publicis Sapient’s global survey showed that 61% of people know nothing about what companies do with their data. Traditionally, the onus has been on consumers to read and consent to privacy policies buried within terms and conditions that are often longer than The US Constitution. This lack of transparency, and growing advocacy around consumers’ rights to their own data, brought about the new regulatory changes.

Consumers have the ‘right to be forgotten’ and are demanding more privacy and control of their data. We’ve seen tremendous progress made for consumer data rights. The idea that consumers have rights to their data is the bedrock of laws like the EU’s GDPR and California’s AB-375. And when it comes to the major mobile platforms, cookieless future is already here. Many major platforms have made changes around how consumers can control their own data all the way through whether they can delete it, update it, or protect different attributes that can be shown. In fact, all major browsers, except for Chrome, have already eliminated third-party cookies. However, in 2023, Chrome is planning on eliminating their third-party cookies. Moreover, within native applications, Apple has moved to limit the use of identification for advertisers by switching the default in iOS to “off” on user’s devices.

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Gartner predicts that by year-end 2024, 75% of the world’s population will have its personal data covered under modern privacy regulations. Yet, with no regulation that comprehensively holds companies accountable for their data collection, storage, and selling practices in a standardized way, compliance feels like a moving target. Businesses are in a scramble to become compliant with the new and constantly changing rules. Rather than reacting, they should instead think about where data privacy is headed, and how making changes now can benefit them and enhance customer relationships for the long term.

Looking Ahead on Data Privacy

Because of legislation, cloud, and competition, marketers will no longer be able to rely on third-party tracking cookies. Enterprises must now become platforms themselves that bring first-party experiences and systems together with data at the core. The question is: How can they still reach their target audience while respecting their new levels of privacy? We believe we’re headed into the age of “progressive consent.”

Heading into 2023, companies will need to be very transparent and communicative about how they are using customer data. This approach to progressive consent can come in the form of clear communication around getting permission for cookies and describing how the cookie helps give the consumer a better experience. It’s paramount that consumers can understand why their data is being collected and what their return on investment is for sharing that data. Consent management technology will be key here because building a progressive consent philosophy into your technology will allow for the proper tools to delete customer data when asked to and provide visibility into how data is being used across enterprises, brands and channels.

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This approach will give customers the confidence that their data is being treated in the right way, and customer trust is proven crucial. In fact, previous Publicis Sapient research shows that consumers who know what companies are doing with their data are more likely to be satisfied with the amount of privacy they have online, be more trusting of organizations across the board, see the benefit of sharing their data with companies, and be more comfortable sharing their data while online or in apps.

Further down the road, we could see more adoption around decentralized identities where companies give consumers the ability to control their data in a privacy-safe way. This idea would give every consumer the ability to control their own data in a decentralized way. While this concept is very much in early stages, innovation is steadily growing in this space like we’re seeing blockchain or hyper-ledger-based technologies disrupt other aspects of business and consumer experiences.

The general evolution happening is a move to consent, to user choice and ultimately, to user control. The future of digital identity is becoming increasingly decentralized, regulated, and consent based. Data-privacy policies and regulations are paving the way to a cookieless future in which businesses can no longer depend on cookies and email addresses. Moving forward, businesses will need to earn the right to capture more information and build greater trust over time.