News about big data breaches, such as Yahoo reporting 500 million of its user accounts stolen, has rattled the public’s trust about how companies are handling their information.
Of course concerns about unintended leakage of customer data are nothing new. A couple of years ago one of our local Cincinnati TV stations approached us to demonstrate how the government site Healthcare.gov collected data about its visitors. At the time we noted that many organizations are leaking data that is collected online and consumers have no idea what’s going on with their information.
Often, companies inadvertently collect or leak data without any ill intent or nefarious purpose. This allows third parties to gather personal information through the use of marketing tags.
There’s nothing illegal or nefarious about tagging. In fact, it’s one of the most useful tools companies have for tracking, evaluating and developing their marketing efforts. A typical Google Analytics tag, for instance, will collect anonymous data on visitors from every page on your web site, including where they came from, what they did, and if they ultimately convert to purchase a product, fill out a form or heed some other call to action. Thousands of marketing tags are now being used to track customer behavior. Almost all of them collect visitor information in some shape or form.
With the prevalence of large data breaches and other data privacy issues constantly in the news, consumers are increasingly concerned about protecting their information. Leading companies recognize these privacy concerns and take steps to keep trust with their customers.
How can you make sure your company is doing all it can to keep customer data safe? Take some time to review your marketing platforms, asking:
What tool(s) do you currently use?
How long has your company had each one in place?
Who owns the platform within your company?
Who set up the architecture and tracking for each marketing and analytics tool?
Do you have documentation outlining what the tool is tracking and why?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, that’s an indication you need to audit your systems.
It’s important to regularly review and update each tool that collects visitor data. Companies should also have technology in place to constantly monitor these systems and alert them if something is amiss. Here are three things companies can do to guard customer data:
Perform regular audits of platforms that are collecting data on your web site. If you find code you no longer use, get rid of it. Outdated code increases the risk of data leakage.
Monitor what data is being collected on your web site. This way you can be alerted if platforms start collecting data they shouldn’t be, or stop collecting data they should (which will cause reporting issues).
Put tag governance processes in place. This includes documentation of all data-collecting platforms, monitoring and strict user-access roles.
Finally, don’t forget to evaluate how much of your own company’s data you want to share. With Google Analytics you have three options and, no matter which you choose, they all keep your company and customer data privatized:
Opt Out: If you opt out of data sharing, your data will remain within Google Analytics and will not be shared with other products or services.
Share with Google: If you decide to share your data with Google, it will be used to improve its products and services.
Share Anonymously: If you decide to share your data anonymously with others, it will be blended with other data to support Google Analytics’ benchmarking feature.
The good news: regardless of which option you choose, your data will be protected by multiple layers of defense, including advanced security, firewalling and routing to keep it secure.
With the massive growth of e-Commerce, social media and mobile — and increasingly devious hackers — we will unfortunately continue to see headlines about big data breaches. Fortunately, there are steps businesses can take to be proactive when it comes to the marketing information they collect. As businesses and consumers become more and more reliant on technology, let’s embrace new tools that allow us to create more customer-centric marketing campaigns — while keeping customers safe.
Analytics expert Michael Loban is CMO of InfoTrust, a Cincinnati-based marketing technology company. InfoTrust makes marketers happy with stress-free analytics. It combines tools for quality data collection with a powerful professional services team to help business leaders maximize results.