Personal data isn’t very nice anymore. Cambridge Analytica, GDPR, and data leakage scandals are among the numerous reasons to be careful with data—or at least rethink our attitudes towards it. And many companies have. All of a sudden, company representatives lower their voices when they talk about data collection. For years, it has been claimed that personal data is the new oil, but few have realised the true nature of the analogy until now: Personal data and oil are both dirty businesses.
Just like some companies try to find every loophole when it comes to environmental or labour laws, some companies will keep on trying to exploit personal data. But responsible companies will think twice. It will be just as natural to have a strict policy towards the collection and sending of personal data as it is to take environmental responsibility. Tracking people without clear consent and providing their personal data to hundreds of third-party suppliers is just flat out wrong—and everyone knows it deep inside.
Who is the true winner of tracking?
Many people claim that publishers need to provide data to third-party suppliers to monetize their content. However, the extensive use of tracking and cookies might actually lead to lost money for premium publishers. Apart from the intrusive customer experience, this anecdote describes well how publishers are being used. It is a recap from Walt Mossberg’s conversation with an advertising executive when he launched the premium site Recode:
“I asked him if that meant he’d be placing ads on our fledgling site. He said yes, he’d do that for a little while. And then, after the cookies he placed on Recode helped him to track our desirable audience around the web, his agency would begin removing the ads and placing them on cheaper sites our readers also happened to visit.” You can read the full Mossberg article here.
Context - the green data
So, if personal data is oil, does that mean that data is dead? Of course not. There is lots of data out there that actually makes the world a better place. And just as we have green energy, we also have green data. One example of green data is contextual data. Contextual data does not exploit people’s privacy, it just enhances the reader experience. It shows how topics and articles relate to each other in a way that no human can. That is privacy by design. In the coming years, quality publishers and advertisers should pivot toward contextual tech and targeting, because it is not only an efficient way to engage readers and customers, it is also the right thing to do!