Advertising and Data Privacy – Why Consumers Should Be Aware

Data privacy continues to be a hot topic for every consumer, business, and especially advertising data providers. Many people are aware of what their information is being used for (ad targeting among other things). But many consumers aren’t aware of the dynamics by which digital advertisers exfiltrate their data in order to sell it to third-party websites and data resellers.

Consumers are continuing to raise concerns about data privacy. Companies are making moves to show that they are protecting their customers’ data and improving the advertisement experience.

Meta is shaking things up with the introduction of Facebook Open Research and Transparency project. This allows registrants to see data on how some ads were used to target individuals and adding overviews of targeting information for ads in their Ad Library. Disney+ has said they will not allow certain ads, including political ads, on their new ad-supported streaming service.

In light of this advertising industry emphasis on data privacy, it’s also important for consumers to be aware of the threats against their privacy and how to adequately protect themselves. Here are a few reasons it’s critical for consumers to own their data privacy:

1.) Data privacy in advertising matters when sharing trackable location data

Using mobile devices’ geolocation data to target advertising is a controversial advertising method growing in popularity. Geolocation data from your phone give marketer’s insight into where you go and what you do. It also helps inform what you may want to purchase. In 2017, geotargeted mobile advertising accounted for $17.1 billion in revenue. And by 2022, that number is projected to increase to $38.7 billion according to BIA Advisory Services.

While simply tracking location does not mean that marketers know everything about you, your habits may still reveal more than you think about your purchasing decisions. The various locations you visit help establish an “audience segment” you belong in, through which specific ads and offers can be served to you.

Outside of purely serving ads, the use of location data can be dangerous. Businesses gather, store, and sell personal location data to the highest bidder. A hacker or anyone with raw location data could track a person’s location by determining which phone spent the most time at their home address. 

2.) Algorithms filter the information you see

Most modern internet users are familiar with the ways social media and other digital platforms use algorithms to improve your experience. Facebook or Twitter for example may prioritize content from your friends and relatives or based on the posts you tend to engage with positively.

This information is based on data gathered about your previous habits. It may seem innocent to direct you exclusively to content that you like, but the controversial issue is that you are missing large segments of content that does not fit your exact profile formulated by the algorithms. Research from the University of Oslo finds that “homophilic clusters” of users – or groups of users connected to people similar to themselves – dominate online dynamics. This is also known as the echo chamber effect.

The net of these algorithms is that they tailor content specifically for things you agree with and like. It also hides content that you may not be interested in. While in the short term, this may help you enjoy your digital experiences on these platforms. The long game for companies is that they get rich data profiles on your wants, needs, and buying tendencies. These are in turn used to serve you ads and services down the road.

3.) Privacy is a human right

Many consumers write off privacy concerns with “I have nothing to hide, why should I care about my data?” There is also a tradeoff for consumers between their privacy and their perceived convenience in sharing data, as the more data they share, the more appropriate and targeted the ads they see become. With these factors in mind, many consumers are okay with a bit of data sharing if it improves their experience.

This is not the case in our personal lives though, where we expect privacy as a given. We would find it aggressively inappropriate to share our salary, personal finance information, medical or health information without consent to the general public. So why then do we draw a distinction with the websites we visit, items we purchase, and places we go? 

Unfortunately, digital platforms and the overwhelming volume of data exchanges has changed our perceptions of privacy. Moving forward, platforms should establish protocols. The protocols must ensure our online data is kept private unless users knowingly consent to information being collected. This is a main goal of GDPR and CCPA data privacy legislations passed in Europe and California.

4.) Hackers will make every attempt to steal your information

Even if you’re okay with granting access to your data, not protecting your data opens you up to the threat of hackers. Hackers can use data to get credit card or bank account details – or sell that information to the highest bidder. If one bad actor gets enough of your personally identifiable information (PII), they can establish a new credit account or borrow money in your name. This can leave you liable for the debt and can negatively affect your credit score.

Many people unknowingly help hackers by making their data easy to access online. Hackers can easily infect computers with viruses to exfiltrate data or employ phishing tactics to trick you into giving over data voluntarily. Additionally, large data breaches can produce a flood of data ripe for nefarious activities. Data breaches impacted 155.8 million people in 2020 alone. Just like safeguarding your home against bad actors with home security systems, taking steps to protect your data makes hackers seek easier targets. Plus, it reduces the risk that your data will be exposed during a data breach.

Do the data privacy and advertising laws in place protect my data?

The United States does not have a single federal legislation that addresses all data privacy. We’ve seen recent iterations of this type of legislation with the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). However, that legislation is limited to within state lines. As a result, the overwhelming majority of products used to gather data are unregulated. To date, there’s been no sweeping federal privacy laws to limit what companies or advertisers can do with consumer data.

That being said, don’t wait to control your data privacy. Take steps to ensure you’re not actively sharing your data or consenting to cookies on websites that collect them. Consumers can also leverage VPNs and other IP address randomizers. Advertisers collecting data won’t be able to associate it with a single device or user profile. Consumers should make themselves aware of the ways by which advertisers collect and utilize consumer data, so they can empower themselves to not fall victim to their predatory marketing or financial schemes.

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Source: blog –