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Time is Running Out to Build Trust with Consumers and Save the Free, Ad-Supported Internet

Published January 09, 2023

It’s a terrible tradeoff: to view the content you want on the web, you have to give up your email. And for your trouble, you then get buried in spam and stalked by retargeted ads as you move around the web. That’s an abysmal customer experience—and it’s one that plays out millions of times every single day.

Consumers are fed up and revolting. They’re using burner email services and ad blockers in ever greater numbers, as evidenced by the adoption of Apple, Google and Amazon’s hide IP and email address services.

But here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be this way

In survey after survey, consumers are willing to share their data if there is a tangible advantage for doing so. 415 Research discovered that 90% of consumers are willing to share their data if they get additional benefits, and 54% said transparency about the use of their data would make them more loyal to a brand or retailer. In other words, consumers think it is marketers’ responsibility to keep their data private and secure—and they’re willing to reward them if they get those benefits.

Another recent study shows that 60% of people globally believe it’s worth allowing companies to use their personal data if it means a better user experience. And while consumers will give up their data for a great digital customer experience, they still want more control.

This competition for control between marketers and consumers has prompted lawmakers to propose legislation like the bipartisan American Data and Privacy Protection Act which, if it becomes law, would provide a national standard on what data companies can collect from consumers and how they can use it. France, Austria, South Africa, and more than 50 other countries are accelerating efforts to control the data produced by their citizens, too. Federal regulation and frameworks can make everyone’s lives easier (or much harder, depending on your point of view) with the government driving and enforcing guidelines — but it’s not a silver bullet.

What we really need are tools that give consumers control. It’s time for all of us to get serious about giving consumers real choice and putting them in charge of their identity, their data, and consent.

The future of the free ad-supported internet depends on it

Serious companies have consent management platforms or CMPs, which is basically the technical infrastructure businesses use to collect and store data that consumers have “agreed” to share, whether they realize it or not. But consumers don’t have a CMP. In fact, they are usually unaware of what data is being collected and by whom, and how it’s being used, until it’s too late. As an industry, we need to change that, and time is running out.

Every week brings new regulation, new changes to the big platforms that limit the data we can collect on consumers, and new consumer tools that block what marketers can collect. It’s an arms race, and marketers are losing the battle.

It’s time to flip the script. We have the technology to give consumers control. And we need to proactively show them what data we are collecting, how we’re using it, and give them the option to control what they let us use and what they don’t want to disclose. We need to give them real incentives to share their data—and the power to opt out if they want to.

We need to redefine the entire value exchange of the internet so consumers control their own data — all the time

If we continue to just trick consumers into giving us their data and abusing it, we’ll be rewarded with more ad blockers, more email and IP masking, and more onerous and fragmented regulation (witness GDPR, CCPA and countless other piecemeal data privacy solutions that are well-intentioned but also a nightmare for compliance).

Putting user experience and privacy control first is crucial in maintaining the open, ad-supported web and its wealth of free news, information, and entertainment offerings.

If we don’t, very soon we won’t be able to see any identifiers for the consumers we want to reach. Effective marketing and targeting will get very costly, very quickly. We’ll be flying completely blind in a highly regulated ecosystem controlled by only a few big platforms—and we’ll have only ourselves to blame.

View the original article in Street Fight Magazine