Walking the privacy walk
Modern digital experiences require a tactful balance between personalization and privacy, with data, and particularly its usage, playing an essential role in guaranteeing brands are able to keep up with the constant changes in market trends and consumer habits.
While this is admittedly much easier if you lead with a privacy-first mindset, it’s understandable that it’s harder to walk the walk than talk the talk when it comes to privacy, primarily due to the speed of evolution in digital experiences coupled with all the developments around privacy regulations.
In this article, we’ll take you through some of the most important considerations when walking the privacy walk and a few essential tips for getting it right. Let’s get started.
Updates in privacy regulations
The need for more comprehensive privacy regulations arose just over 4 years ago with the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the important changes to Europe’s GDPR following right after that.
Since then, we’ve seen a number of new privacy laws and regulations, as well as updates to existing ones, with which organizations have needed to comply. Keeping up with all the changes can pose challenges, especially for multinational companies that need to take into account several or all of these laws.
While these regulations typically have a considerable delay in when they take effect, this is now long overdue for GDPR as well as for CCPA, which introduces legal liability to those affected by the regulations who still haven’t made appropriate changes to their privacy and cookie policies.
Google & iOS recent and upcoming changes to cookies
While Google postponed their phasing out of third-party cookies last year, times are moving incredibly fast and so the delayed date is not actually as far away as it seems. This requires businesses to plan for a cookieless future and how to adjust their digital strategies to best accommodate it.
A related consideration are the privacy updates for apps submitted to the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store, intended to give users greater insight into and control over how their data is used. Find some related insights in our conversation with Alex Trup, co-founder of Rolo Secure Chat.
Speed of digitalization is faster than speed of regulation
One important thing to keep in mind is that the speed of innovation and digitalization is greater than the speed of regulation. You can sometimes legally get away with certain practices, but that doesn’t necessarily make them right.
Instead, you should start by being ethical and people-focused first, even if regulation hasn’t yet caught up with that. Exploiting lack of regulation for suboptimal processes and/or experiences will only cause you that much more additional trouble when regulations do eventually catch up with reality.
Prioritize privacy over profit when selecting new technologies
Following the logic of the previous point, you should also err on the side of privacy when selecting and implementing new technologies, rather than setting your sights exclusively on financial gain. Don’t forget that privacy is business gain.
The analytics tradeoff
An important tradeoff comes in the context of analytics, which rely on an abundance of data about your users in order to actually benefit your business. Restricting data collection and usage, whether that be due to updates in technology and/or regulation, or to users’ choices, logically makes traditional analytics much less useful.
While a commitment to privacy still translates to business gain, this blow to business functions (and consequently the user experience, assuming you use data collected through users to improve their experience) is definitely a tradeoff you need to take into account and plan for.
Contradictions make proper implementation difficult
Another significant hurdle are the contradicting factors inherent to a field that’s newly entered the spotlight. A specific example is how cookie notifications inherently harm the user experience, but not implementing them violates privacy regulations and/or can make users suspicious of your data collection and usage.
This is especially relevant on mobile, where such a notice takes up a much more significant percentage of the entire viewport and can hence turn users off more quickly – not to mention that a well-designed cookie notice will typically need to contain more information, paradoxically causing a worse experience on mobile.
The key will be implementing these notices in a way that takes into account and balances both of these aspects; i.e. they will require a meticulous approach rather than a superficial add-on.
Tips for walking the privacy walk
What can you do about all this? Here are some tips to help you navigate through it:
- Use more first-party data: real-time interactions such as chatbots, a CRM platform based on human interaction, etc.
- Put more effort into (UX) research – prioritizing first-hand info from customers and clients, crafting personas, doing thorough competitor research and SEO analysis
- Don’t automatically assume users’ consent to sharing their data
- Make content equally accessible to the users unwilling to share their data
- Don’t rely on dark patterns or any other dishonest means for obtaining users’ data
- Stay on top of changes in privacy trends and regulations
Privacy should not simply be a buzzword. Don’t fall into the trap of undermining privacy in order to justify it. Transparency and privacy go hand in hand, and trust should be the basis for both.
If you’d like to learn more about privacy, we recommend our podcast episode featuring Prateek Dayal of Aqilliz in which we take a deeper dive into the role of privacy in an effective digital strategy.