This Thursday, January 28th marks the United States’ 14 annual Data Privacy Day, a campaign to raise awareness about digital privacy issues and encourage companies and individuals to take action. Data privacy is always an important concern, but in 2021, it may be more relevant than ever.
For almost a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed our lives and jobs online, launching us deeper into the digital world, where we’ve had to figure out what Zoom meetings, telemedicine, contact tracing apps, and (in some places) enhanced government surveillance mean for online privacy. And all of this comes on top of existing concerns.
Even before the coronavirus changed the world as we know it, Americans were questioning how governments and companies were using their digital information. In a 2019 survey by Pew Research Center, 70% of those surveyed speculated that their personal data had become more vulnerable compared with five years prior. And 79% worried about how companies are using their data. Responding to such worries, some governments enhanced protective policies and companies including Apple, Mozilla, and most recently Google, pledged to ditch third-party cookies.
Data Privacy Day shines a light on these challenges and provides an opportunity for various stakeholders to get involved in finding the solutions. Fortunately, due to the sensitive nature of health information, data protection is not a new concept to most in healthcare marketing. Transparent policies, de-identified data, HIPAA compliance, and clear consent and opt-out options were already part of PulsePoint’s 2020 pledge.
But the right data, used ethically, can have benefits, providing real world context to clinical trials and facilitating the personalization of healthcare marketing and services. Thus, adapting to the continuously shifting landscape means balancing the need to maintain data privacy with the potential good that comes from using that data. So, what will that look like?
Fortunately, the demise of the cookie and the rise of new digital protections don’t have to mean healthcare marketers lose access to this important contextual information, although it will change how that information is accessed. “While no singular approach alone can deliver the scale and targeting capabilities of cookies, [several] in combination hold the promise of actually taking data-driven marketing to the next level,” says Sloan Gaon, CEO of PulsePoint. New strategies will pull and aggregate first-party data from multiple publishers.
This year, Data Privacy Day’s theme pushes things further, highlighting the inherent worth of information, likening it to money—something to be valued and protected. Recognizing that value, Gaon predicts, will be key to the next version of programmatic marketing. And it will do something that is essential to the work of the healthcare industry. By exploring motivations for the recent wave of skepticism about data privacy and the enhanced protections that have emerged in its wake, he notes that the industry has “the opportunity to consciously and deliberately focus on countering consumer objections by delivering tangible, direct health value to our audiences in return for the privilege of using their data.”
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