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Why marketers should not be collecting your personal data

By GRANT LAPPING, Managing Director at DataCore Media

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Data privacy and protection are likely to be high on the agenda for 2020 in the wake of Facebook–Cambridge Analytica and other data scandals. These controversies have prompted regulators and consumers alike to question how much personal data big tech companies gather, how they put it to work, and how they store and manage it.

This incident saw Cambridge Analytica harvest the personal data of millions of peoples’ Facebook profiles without their consent and use it for microtargeted political campaigns. It’s an example of how the speed of change in the technology market outpaces the ability of lawmakers and regulators to keep up.

The enactment of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 in response to personal data privacy concerns was a watershed moment, setting a benchmark for global data protection regulation that is likely to be emulated in many parts of the world. Yet the debate has already moved on.

Edward Snowden – the NSA-whistle blower living in exile in Russia after exposing America’s mass surveillance programmes – for example, argues that we shouldnot be looking only at protection of data. We should also ask whether this personal data should be collected in the first place, given that leaks or abuse of the data are inevitable.

He says that the underlying assumption of GDPR and similar data privacy laws is that “the collection of data in the first place was proper, that it was appropriate and that it doesn’t represent a threat or danger. That it’s okay to spy on yourcustomers or your citizens so long as it never leaks.”

Reframing the debate 

This point is one that digital marketers, regulators, big tech and privacy advocates are likely to vigorously debate in the years to come. It shifts the question to whether Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and other programmatic based platforms are correct to collect your information in the first instance rather than whether they are doing enough to protect your data from bad actors like Cambridge Analytica.

This reframing of the debate could have profound implications for digital marketing if it becomes increasingly difficult for programmatic platforms to collect data that enables brands to run highly targeted advertising campaigns. We could see lawmakers question whether the way these platforms gather and use data is truly in customers’ best interests.

As powerful as these capabilities are, it is perhaps also time for marketers to question whether they should amass as much personal data as they can without asking whether their customers are in favour of it. Many leading brands believe that they could benefit from shifting from mass collection of data towards collecting data only with customers’ consent.

The obvious drawback is that brands have less customer data to use for their targeted campaigns; the upside is that marketers can build trust among their customers by asking for permission and being transparent about how they collect and use data. They can overlay mass data with surveys and other tools to notonly understand what customers are doing but why they are doing it.

Data captured via tags embedded within sites for targeted campaigns is still the most effective way to gather vast amounts of client data quickly. It will always be more efficient than survey-based data, but if regulation starts to move from protection to collection it is worth building the capability now in anticipation of that possibility.

Focus on the data that matters 

Marketers can also focus on the most salient data rather than gathering information for its own sake. Consider the example of Facebook likes. Some marketers think that getting a lot of ‘likes’ on Facebook is a great way to gather a captive audience of good, qualified prospects. But one needs to ask how these likes were acquired and whether those that ‘liked’ to enter a competition are genuine leads and fans.

It’s not necessary to gather ‘likes’ to market your product or service to a user on Facebook. You can reach him or her through a range of more precise targeting criteria that are far better qualified. I would rather have 80% less likes on my page if I knew those remaining 20% were genuine brand ambassadors.

One way to get richer data is to use survey data consumers knowingly provided to target ads on platforms such as Facebook. This can build trust with the customer, since they will have more control over how their data is used to target messages to them. The brand can still leverage the data the platform collects about the user, while using the data the user supplied for more accurate and transparent engagements.

We work closely with platforms such as Google and Facebook, and believe their intentions are generally good. However, marketers also need to keep ahead of the evolving data privacy debate and position themselves for the best practices of tomorrow. Those that get it right will be able to both target their customers at a highly granular level and build trust in their brands by using data in a manner that respects concerns of consumers and regulators.

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TikTok takes on COVID-19

The fastest growing social media platform in the world has also become an epicenter of public education about the coronavirus, attracting more than 30-billion views, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The young have been getting a bad rap for wanting to party on while COVID-19 sends the world into lockdown. But a different movie is playing itself out on the social platform that is growing fastest among teenagers: TikTok.

Awareness campaigns by TikTok itself, collaboration with the International Red Cross, and spontaneous videos made by TikTok creators have combined into a barrage of information, education, awareness and social consciousness around the coronavirus.

Both globally and in South Africa, TikTok’s COVID-19 campaigns have gone viral.

The local #HayiCorona challenge, designed to remind people not to touch their face and wash hands regularly, has passed 1.5-million views. The TikTok collaboration with the International Red Cross, the #WashingHands challenge, has passed 12.6-million views.

One of the best-known participants in these challenges is the past year’s icon of South African talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir, took up the global challenge with a 20-second hand-washing video. It put together a performance that brings tremendous energy to what can be a clichéd message, and ends with a punt for the Department of Health’s WhatsApp information service. The video can be viewed below.

@ndlovuyouthchoir

Our community has limited access to running water. Follow these instructions on how to safely wash your hands using a bucket. ##coronavirus##washinghands

♬ original sound – ndlovuyouthchoir

“On a global scale, TikTok also partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that, while creators are still having fun and expressing themselves on the platform, they stay informed with COVID-19 information coming from a reliable source,” a TikTok spokesperson told us. “Through the partnership, the WHO has created an informational page on TikTok that offers information to curb the spread of the coronavirus as well as dispelling myths.”

The page can be viewed at https://vm.tiktok.com/GHTEGf

TikTok has hosted a number of livestreams with WHO experts, attracting users from more than 70 countries, tuning in for live question and answer sessions. It has also introduced labels on coronavirus-related videos, to point users to trusted information. Resources are also offered directly in the app and in a dedicated COVID-19 section of TikTok’s Safety Center, at https://www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/covid-19.

If users simply want to explore videos on the topic, they can search via the #coronavirus hashtag, or click on https://vm.tiktok.com/swKbn4. The hashtag has had an astonishing 33.8-billion views, indicating the scale of activity and interest around the topic on the platform.

Read more on the next page about how South Africans have embraced the campaign.

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On World Backup Day: backup, backup, backup

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It was World Backup Day yesterday, 31 March, at a time when business continuity is threatened as never before. That makes calls for protecting email and defending against ransomware all the more urgent.

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark relief many organisations’ lack of business continuity plans and policies. With more than two billion people around the globe in forced lockdown in wide-ranging government efforts to stem the tide of infections, an unprecedented number of employees are working remotely.

This interruption to the normal way of work is precisely what an effective and resilient business continuity strategy should plan for, says Heino Gevers, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast

“Companies need uninterrupted access to critical business applications during times of disruption, including safe and secure web and email access for workers that are now operating outside the normal perimeters of the organisation,” he says. “In addition, comprehensive backup and archiving solutions should be ready to restore access to critical business applications should there be any unplanned downtime to ensure continuity until the crisis passes.”

According to Gevers, the current global crisis is likely to push business continuity up the list of priorities for many organisations that have been disrupted by the effects of the coronavirus.

“Organisations are facing new challenges to their productivity; for example in terms of technical support. If a remote user is infected with malware or ransomware, how does the IT team restore that device or do any remediation without being able to physically access it?”

Gevers advises that organisations implement tools that enhances the data protection capabilities of commonly-used tools such as Office365 and can leverage archived data to provide quick recovery of email data in the event of accidental loss, malicious attacks or technical failure. 

“As adoption of cloud-based business applications grow in the wake of forced lockdowns around the globe, companies need to ensure they have the tools to recover in any situation,” he says. “This includes a data management strategy that combines archiving, backup and data protection capabilities to allow for quick restoration of critical systems and applications in the event of disruption.”

Jasmit Sagoo, head of technology at Veritas for the United Kingdom and Ireland, warns that this is a golden age for cybercriminals looking for ransomware opportunities.

“As the global cost of ransomware continues to grow, this World Backup Day, Veritas is saying: ‘don’t pay up, back up!’,” he says. “Ransomware is said to generate an estimated annual revenue of $1 billion a year, and companies who are not consistent in backing up their data are allowing criminals to line their pockets.

“Ransomware attacks exist only because some businesses can’t survive unless the hackers give them back their data.  So, the key to survival is removing that reliance and being able to regain access to data, without engaging with the cybercriminals.  The best way to do that is with a sound backup strategy.

“Sagoo advises organisations to create isolated, offline backup copies of their data to keep it out of reach of any attackers.  They then need to proactively monitor and restrict backup credentials, while running backups frequently to shrink the risk of potential data loss. Businesses should also test and retest their ransomware defences regularly.

“Ransomware strikes without warning and it doesn’t discriminate between its targets – it can happen to any organisation, large or small. Despite their best efforts, most companies will fall to at least one attack. What distinguishes one victim from another is the ability to bounce back, which ultimately depends on its backup strategy.

“When ransomware hits, organisations that aren’t prepared often feel helpless to do anything other than to submit to their attacker’s demands.   That’s why we’re urging all businesses to use World Backup Day as a catalyst to get ahead of the situation and get their data protected.”

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