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Imminent Privacy Regs Force Brands to Get Serious About Data

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The coming changes to consumer privacy laws are bound to be “super chaotic,” said Neil Sweeney, founder and CEO of Freckle, speaking at today's RampUp marketing conference in New York City. But that’s okay, because “chaos creates opportunity” and Sweeney is in the consent management business.

Consumer privacy usually gets little attention at digital marketing conferences, but with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) set to kick in January 1, 2020, brands have little choice but to take notice. Like the GDPR did in Europe, the CCPA will give consumers the ability to see what personal data is collected and delete information. The act only covers California citizens, but forward-thinking brands are using this an occasion to create global data policies that put a premium on consent.

To Sweeney, that sounds like a good business to be in. Many companies are downplaying how sweeping the coming changes will be, he said, and while larger companies will have the resources to manage the complicated and onerous business of privacy management, smaller companies won’t. “Privacy is like tax law. It’s fundamentally changing on a daily basis,” he said.

Many of today’s businesses require a constant supply of inexpensive consumer data to operate, Sweeney noted. They’ll have a difficult path forward as the supply of consensual data declines while demand rises. “I think it’s going to hit people right in the mouth,” he said.

So far, consumer data has been a marketing issue for companies, but after January 1 it’s a legal issue. It’s naïve to think the date will become another Y2K moment, Sweeney said—a potential catastrophe with plenty of buildup but no impact. Companies will have no choice but to change how they solicit and manage consumer data.

The solution he envisions is a “consent-as-a-service” model, where third-party companies manage and transact fully opt-in compliant consumer accounts. The ideal solution is decentralized, he believes, avoiding large data repositories that would attract hackers. It also gives power to consumers, letting them shut off access to personal data whenever they wish.

In preparing for privacy changes, companies need to carefully train any staff that might respond to consumer requests, emphasized Noga Rosenthal, chief privacy officer and general counsel at NCC Media, a TV ad sales technology company. They also need to look at the information they collect and decide if they feel comfortable turning that over to consumers. For example, one of her clients had a data category called “baby buyers,” meaning households that buy childcare goods. Thinking of the optics, she advised them to rename it.

Photo: Neil Sweeney, Freckle; Noga Rosenthal, NCC Media; and Neil Tolbert, OneTrust; at the RampUp marketing conference.

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