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Most insight team leaders know the importance of creating authentic and transparent engagements with customers. And in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, they’re ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding the need for compliance too. But how do you evangelize the need to adhere to privacy rules and best practices across your organization?

At the 2018 Customer Intelligence Summit, social media expert, Alexandra Samuel, outlined how you can maintain the momentum of compliance and stay ahead of the curve while continuing to demonstrate the power of authentic and transparent engagement to other company stakeholders, decision makers and leaders.

In her session, “The data code: What insight professionals know (and need to share with the world)”, Samuel shared lessons and practices in three key areas to help insight leaders turn their longstanding experience with ethical data collection into a resource for the entire enterprise, so they can avoid the kind of shock experienced by Facebook users and shareholders that erupted when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, and the regulatory backlash that followed.

Data collection

Consent is the foundation of an ethical collection of customer information, says Samuel, whereas surreptitious collection breaks trust, as the Cambridge Analytica incident demonstrates.

The type of consent Alexandra is talking about is informed and meaningful consent, which is important to differentiate from simple ‘consent’. Often, even when consent is collected, it’s based on a user clicking “Accept” without reading the pages of legalese that precede it, which arguably doesn’t meet the standard of meaningful consent — an issue that lawmakers have sought in recent years to combat with the enhanced regulation requiring clear and easily understood disclosures. “We need to communicate this idea to our colleagues,” Samuel continues, “We need to help them understand that even though it is so super tempting to sneak that data grab into the fine print, it really doesn't suit our relationship, or our data needs if we go about getting data that way.”

Samuel said the beauty of a Vision Critical insight community, or any channel where customers are answering questions, is they are telling you what they want you to know, and they're not telling you what they don't want you to know. “There are always going to be people in marketing who want more than your customers are prepared to share,” she said. “None of that is worth the damage it can do to your relationship if you're using sketchy methods to collect it.”

Consent is the most important concept to sell to colleagues, said Samuel, but so is the need to provide value to customers in exchange for their data. This isn’t new to insight teams, but the rest of the organization needs to understand that providing customers value for their data through a discount or a contest shouldn’t be done simply because it’s expedient at the time. Rather, she said, it should be the first principle of how data collection is done.

Cambridge Analytica happened, in part, because it's become too easy to acquire customer data without providing value, which means organizations end up treating it with less care, said Samuel. “Make sure your colleagues pay for the data they need.” Not only should customers see value from the collection of their data, but it should also be pleasant and transparent. “You want that fun element, but it's not there to trick your customer, it's there to show them that you care about them, that you're trying to make this experience meaningful to them, as well as to you.”

These three ideas of consent, value and delight in data collection are a good start, she said, but are still only the first piece of the puzzle.

Data management

The second piece is what is done with the data once it’s collected, said Samuel. Data management is often governed by policies designed to comply with regulatory requirements and there’s some necessary collaboration with other teams — security and legal, among others. But insight teams can play a role in shaping the broader organization and the larger business world to understand what it means to manage data with integrity and in a way that’s respectful of the customer.

As much as it’s trendy to break down silos for business operations when it comes to customer data, Samuel said these silos must be respected. “As much as it is super fascinating to combine all these data sets, we need to recognize that it's in combining the data sets that we often violate our customers’ expectations or comfort level.” This is where consent comes back into play, she said. If you want to combine different data sets, collected for different purposes, then you need to convince customers it’s in their best interest and ask them for permission.

This can be challenging to what researchers do every day, acknowledged Samuel, but also speaks to their core strengths. “We have this strong base of conversations with our customers. We know how to talk to customers about the process of learning as a business.” This competency needs to be applied to conveying to the rest of the organization the importance of respecting data silos.

Data usage

The temptation to break down silos is not the only area where organizations need to stop and think. Samuel said there remains serious work to be done around how data is used once it’s collected and perhaps, more importantly, limiting the amount of data organizations collect in the first place. “All too often, we lose sight of that endgame.” If you don't have a plan for using that data, it's a liability with no upside, she said. “We have to start looking at our data sets and the data we're collecting as a potential liability as well as an asset.”

Data collection must be done with intention and a clear idea of how it’s going to inform decision making – in other words, the classic privacy tenets of data minimization and purpose specification must be central to data collection practices. “This shouldn't be a radical idea,” said Samuel, but the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that many organizations are collecting data simply because it's there, and not because they require it for a specified purpose. “We've got to stop our colleagues from engaging in these practices that put our customers’ trust at risk if they're not actually going to translate into decisions in our organization.”

Colleagues should be able to explain how the data they want you to collect can help deliver value to customers. On the flip side, said Samuel, if insight leaders can shift the corporate culture towards the idea that data should only be collected if it's actionable, it creates a culture within the organization that is smarter about drawing on the wisdom of insight teams to guide business decisions on a regular basis.

Take command of a data culture

Compliance with privacy regulations in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal creates a major challenge and an opportunity for insight leaders, said Samuel. “We really are at an inflection point in our companies and in our business culture more broadly.” Insight leaders know data collection without consent is bad business and bad research, but there are thousands of Cambridge Analyticas out there already thanks to clueless marketers and business people, she said. “Our job is to steer data culture.”

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Sweeney Williams

As Vice President of Security, Privacy & Compliance at Vision Critical, Sweeney leads Vision Critical’s global security and privacy program and provides best practice guidance to various business stakeholders and customers to assist, advise, and educate on all aspects of data privacy and security. His responsibilities include overseeing Vision Critical’s privacy compliance framework, performing security advisory functions to the business, measuring program and control effectiveness, and managing industry relations. His mission centers on remaining true to one of the company's key principles: ensuring transparent interaction with individuals who rely on Vision Critical’s services. Prior to starting his career at Vision Critical in 2014, Sweeney served as a Senior Manager of Privacy and Deliverability at marketing automation software company Eloqua.
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