By Harriet Pearson, VP Security Counsel & Chief Privacy Officer, IBM
I’ve long been fascinated by how marketers go about the craft of identifying, sizing and addressing market opportunities, and how they try to engage and build relationships with individual consumers — especially when it comes to privacy and other policy and legal issues.
One of my favorite marketing privacy projects took place in the 90s and was focused on the interaction between people and companies in the then-new “online” space. At the time, a few of us wrote up the first “privacy notice” for IBM’s corporate Web site, working with the marketing team tasked with ramping up our online presence. It was—and is—our joint belief that being transparent about information practices is an important building block for trusted relationships. So, after we posted that first notice (see here for current version), we followed up by asking all of the Web sites on which IBM was advertising to do the same (the vast majority of sites were not posting notices at the time). It was gratifying to see the response – the entire online ecosystem moved forward in terms of transparency, even though we all know today that just providing even a simple, well-written notice is just the first step toward addressing privacy issues.
Fast forward to today. If we thought marketers had to navigate through some complex challenges in the last decade, today’s chief marketing officer is grappling with a tsunami of technological and social change, and it looks like it will be that way for some time to come. That’s why I thoroughly enjoyed reading what over 1,700 CMOs from 64 countries and 19 industries had to tell my colleagues in IBM’s new CMO Study. It’s an enlightening read for anyone interested in these things.
From making sense of “big data” to strategically engaging social media, to better demonstrating ROI – these leaders know these priorities must be addressed for their organizations to achieve future success.
What I found most interesting, however, is what the CMOs said, and did not say, about privacy. Only 28 percent think it’s necessary to change their privacy policies, even in an era of “big data” and technologies that enable ever-increasing personalization. Over half–55% –say they are unprepared to deal with privacy considerations which, I would add, also encompass keeping consumer data secure in an environment that is well-documented to be getting riskier.
The CMO Study recommends – and I agree – that CMOs plan for how they will maintain the trust and consumer engagement they seek.
How? If you’re a marketer, there are a few fundamental things to do. First, protect the data entrusted to your organization. Second, proactively update your privacy policies to keep pace with current and emerging sensitivities and knowledge (such as a new Carnegie-Mellon study on consumer interfaces and opt-out, mentioned in today’s NY Times). And finally: Engage with others in industry, government and the non-profit sector to understand emerging norms and best practices, so that you’re not making data collection and use decisions in a vacuum.
Make no mistake, this is a journey that requires commitment and thoughtful consideration. But those who can make their way forward swiftly, yet surely–with privacy and security considerations built into their business strategy–will be best prepared to make the most progress and reap the rewards.