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If there was ever a time for all marketers to seriously rethink the parameters and prerequisites of the data they employ, it’s now–when regulation such as the GDPR and more recently, the CCPA, exist to protect consumers. Their aim is to curtail the habits of ad-tech firms and publishers that aren’t acting above board when they gather data from consumers. The good news is, there’s one essential spoke in the data-safety wheel that can ensure the fewest problems: traceable and trustworthy consent.

Marketers must demand it–along with some proof of consent–and vendors need to ensure they get it. Simply put, if consumers sign off on knowing their data is being used, and especially how, then no marketer should be worried about incurring fines or breaking the law. Given the slow and steady disappearance of the use of the cookie–long the primary means of identifying the user–third-party data is falling out of favor across the marketing world. Let the consumer choose to share their information, and you’ll see the quality of that data improve immediately.

Too often, however, it goes down this way: third-party data is harvested by a platform or ad-tech firm without the consumer’s explicit and informed consent. The company will either collect the information without asking for the consumer’s permission, or it will force consumers to agree to data collection in order to access the company’s offering–an all-or-nothing choice.

This wouldn’t be a huge problem on its own. Marketers could simply choose to work only with data-compliant vendors, leaving the bad actors to wither and shutter. The problem is, the online advertising ecosystem is as complex as it is inscrutable, with hundreds of distinct ad-tech firms collecting, buying and selling consumer data with little regard for privacy laws. By the time the data eventually finds its way to a marketer’s team, it’s been transacted dozens of times, so that the marketer has no way of tracing the data’s point of origin, much less whether it was consented. That makes it far less trustworthy. 

In this new regulatory-heavy environment, such opacity won’t fly, particularly when every dollar a brand spends is being scrutinized by the CFO. Fines are never a good thing, but they’re an especially bad look right now for CMOs. Traceable and trusted consent, however it’s gathered, avoids all these pitfalls. So let’s get going with insisting on both, starting today.

Learn more in my recent Forbes article.

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