Data Privacy Laws

Around the world, countries are modifying and creating laws to return choices to customers in how their data is used. Below is a brief outline of major national policies. 

  • Europe: In 2018, the EU implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This act harmonizes national data protection frameworks across the EU and aims to protect the rights of all citizens. Specifically, this act centers around informed consent, ensuring that people can only be monitored if they agree to be. Moreover, companies are now obligated to keep clear data records for compliance and destroy such personal data records at customers’ request. 
  • Canada: In Canada, the PIPEDA act of 2000 requires companies that collect data for commercial purposes to get permission to collect, use or disclose the information. This act also allows people to access and challenge the accuracy of the information. Currently, the Canadian Government is developing the Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA) to replace PIPEDA, which would give consumers more control over their data and promote better transparency over how companies personally identify users. 
  • USA: The USA does not have a singular data protection bill but instead has a patchwork of laws that limit sharing of specific types of data. Unfortunately, consumer data is largely unprotected, and companies can collect, use, and sell data without notifying the consumer. Governments are evaluating data laws at the state level, most notably with California, Colorado and Vermont already passing their own. In California, for example, customers can opt-out of data collection and usage across all websites on individual devices.

Apple Privacy

In April 2021, Apple shocked the tech world by including a new feature; a popup asking users if they want to opt-out of device tracking, which collects important marketing data. Unsurprisingly, most Apple users opted out; six months after the initial update, 62% of users asked apps not to track them. 

This strategy immediately affected large competitors who saw a severe slowdown in revenue growth. Particularly, Meta and Snap Inc. cited the company’s new privacy changes for their 2021 revenue slowdown.

Apple, however, has begun benefitting from the change, using its new focus on privacy as a core element of the iPhone’s marketing strategy. The company started running ads with the slogan: “Privacy. That’s iPhone,” and, in an ironic twist, the company’s own advertising product, called Apple Search Ads, has been receiving more attention, as they are now the only entity that can use app store data to power recommended searches.

Google Privacy

Google’s latest privacy strategy focuses on two main aspects of privacy – transparency and choice. Customers can choose what data is being saved, for example, YouTube history and location data, disabling them at any time. The company never sells data to third parties, and customers can choose what data is shared with advertisers for ad targeting.

In addition, customers can request that their data be automatically deleted after a set time period and can request downloadable copies of the data Google has about them. Customers can also turn personalized ad targeting off and request that the company permanently delete their data profile. Ultimately, Google’s privacy policies illustrate the prevailing trend toward returning control of personal data to consumers. 

lock on computer, indicating marketing data privacy

How Companies are Adapting

In response, large tech companies such as Meta have built systems within the Facebook and Instagram ecosystems to reduce the need for third-party tracking. 

In particular, the Shops feature supports e-commerce within Facebook and Instagram, using in-app data to inform marketers about consumer preferences and track conversions. Other companies such as Amazon use a similar strategy to leverage in-app data to inform advertisers. 

This phenomenon, known as the “walled garden,” is central to big tech companies who want to keep the maximum share of the consumer journey within their platforms. As Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg puts it, “as Apple changes make e-commerce and customer acquisition less effective on the web, solutions that allow big businesses to set up shop right inside our apps will become increasingly attractive and important to them.” 

What This Means For Marketers

Although some companies view privacy challenges as a passing phase, tightening national frameworks and consumer preferences has made it evident that these changes are here to stay. This means that data will be scarce, making targeting, retargeting, and performance reporting more difficult.

Today, marketers must adapt to using device-identifier replacements such as Apple’s SKAdNetwork, to track user data more privately. With this, marketers will have to learn how to describe customers differently based on a new definition of attribution.

Moreover, they need to pivot to working more within the boundaries of walled gardens, including adapting their e-commerce strategies to new, in-app homes, such as Facebook and Instagram Shops. Finally, contextual advertising is becoming increasingly important again, as matching ads with users based on content is a strong signal for interest. 

There was a time in the marketing world that some viewed as perfect. Marketers could target customers with high precision and clearly describe the performance of their campaigns. Nowadays, marketing is shifting from more of a science to more of an art. Ultimately, great marketing will need more originality and creativity rather than pinpoint accuracy to be effective.