How can publishers get a bit more data-ethical?

For a couple of months now, and maybe even more than months, our big ad tech giants have been ongoingly taking steps towards protecting users’ privacy, or so they say. Leaving the what’s the real reason debate aside, facts are still facts, and the reality is that both Facebook and Google (followed by the rest of the online advertising leaders) have been continuously launching new policies and updates in the name of pursuing publishers’ morality best practices.  

And of course, the #1 target to go for when it comes to protecting users’ online privacy is the data that websites get from them, and especially how they use it. In this cookie apocalypse world that we are living in, we don’t really have a lot of certainty about what will happen with our advertising campaigns, or how we will ever effectively target audiences anymore. However, we do have two primary certainties that we need to keep in mind facing the next advertising era: 1) as of March 2022, third party cookies will no longer be supported in any of our go-to browsers, and we’ll have to figure out our cookie-less strategies, and 2) users are now, more than ever, aware of how much information about them is collected every time they go online, and they definitely aren’t too happy about this. 

And facing this reality, there is just one thing all of us can do: get better. First, get better at developing technology that helps us target audiences without using third-party cookies. Second, get better at being responsible with the data we collect, and the utilities that we give to them. So keeping the latter one in mind, our friends at AdExchanger have written an awesome set of aspects to keep in mind when we are trying to drive our brand to get more ethical and responsible towards data management. And today, we’ll review what they thought we should consider, and add a bit of our own thoughts to it. So let’s jump right in, shall we? 

1: Hiring a Chief Data Ethics Officer 

Sure, you can hire a PPC that will do an awesome job collecting data and using it to effectively target your ads, but will they bring an ethical approach to the equation? Well, that will probably depend on their personality, principles, and guidelines. However, a Chief Data Ethics Officer will literally have as their main priority to keep things ethical. And of course, if there’s someone who’s looking so intensely after data ethics, the entire team will get in the hence of it and get a lot more ethical. Also, having someone in that role will make a great impact on your brand trust and image because it will show that you care so much that you even pay someone to be on top of your company’s data management. 

2: Establish your Data Ethics Principles 

Most companies these days have manuals of conduct and best practices, and an established value system that the company strives to promote. This is not a very innovative practice, and pretty much any company has one, even if it’s not actually written down. However, the era of online advertising and data collection brings up a whole new set of aspects to consider, and objectives to go for. And obviously, this can’t be done without first going through everything your company cares for, believes in, and wants to promote. So a key point of getting more ethical on data management is to just sit down with your team, and spend some time figuring out which your principles will be towards collection and usage of user’s data. Just like that, you’ll have your very own manual to follow and teach. 

3: Reevaluate your process 

I think this is something worth doing even when you are not facing an ethical crisis or any crisis. Reevaluating your company’s process, operations, and general system is always good to find out what’s working properly, and what could use some improvements. And this doesn’t just involve the operational aspect and how people get things done, but also how they feel within the company, how well built your teams are, and the abstract strategies that could be crafted to make everyone’s experiences better. Of course, this evaluation may show some flaws (like for example a not very ethical way to handle data), but this should only work as an inspiration to get better and develop much more efficient and responsible techniques. 

4: Be transparent

You know how iOS now asks users if they want to let apps track them? Well, no matter how much this jeopardizes your advertising campaigns, it is undeniable that users feel a lot more informed now about what’s happening with their information. Transparency is a central point when it comes to building brand trust, and you must always make sure your users know which data you are collecting, sharing, and using, and how you are doing it. If you are using it to target them for ads, let them know. If you are making a study on people’s online activities, let them know too. As we said before, users now know and care about privacy, and it’s crazy how much just informing them can improve their experience.

5: Continuously evaluate the accuracy and quality of your data

Building a responsible and ethical data strategy also involves making sure you are collecting accurate and high-quality data. You never know when you might be the next victim of ad fraud or when bots will come right for you, so it’s super important to always be evaluating and staying on top of the data you collect. Think about it this way: how can you be an ethical data manager if, for starters, your data is mostly fake or unethically collected, right? 

So, to conclude, I believe most of these items aren’t really so hard to implement, and that it just takes some time and will to actually get to them. So I guess my point here is, the cookie apocalypse is inevitable, so we might as well prepare for it and make sure our users have the best possible experience, right?

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