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Data Privacy and Protection: It All Boils Down to Consent

Data privacy and personalization can coexist as long as brands earn the trust of consumers.

Published on

Apr 15, 2021

Written by

Cecilia Qu'in

As the world continues to evolve around us, tech-savvy citizens across the globe have come to a sobering and unsurprising conclusion. The concept of “privacy” and, more importantly, data privacy, is dead.

While the truth of the matter is not quite as cryptic as that, we must understand how the definition of “privacy” has continued to evolve since the world wide web forever altered the way that human beings connect in this world. Many of us have actively chosen to relinquish aspects of our right to privacy by sharing and oversharing our lives on social media. And while it is true that every one of us has the right to keep it, we simply must consider our current reality. We have no choice but to wonder: Exactly how is data protection possible for ourselves and our future customers?


It is a known fact that in order to improve sales, we must make consistent assessments of our work in order to make effective adjustments to our marketing campaigns. As technology continues to advance at faster rates than most can keep up with, big businesses and organizations are taking full advantage of the benefits that come with in-depth data analysis. This now includes “getting to know” our customers by reviewing what they openly choose to share online, while allowing us the opportunity to create uniquely personalized shopping experiences for our users – but at what cost?

While the majority of web users have a general understanding of how personal data may be used in digital marketing, we would like to make one thing clear for all of our readers: Data privacy and personalization can coexist as long as brands earn the trust of consumers.

There are a few ways to make this work, and it all boils down to the same reasons one might earn the trust of their friends, family, and romantic partners.

It all boils down to consent.

Table of Contents

  1. The Practice of Respectful Research
  2. Composing and Investing in Relevant Engagement Tactics
  3. Creating Meaningful Connections
  4. Shifting Focus

The Practice of Respectful Research

One of our clients recently asked, “Is it possible to provide a customized user experience without gathering user data?” Well, before we can answer that question, we must begin with understanding that consent is everything. And while it is true that audiences across the globe are more annoyed than ever with the excessive use of ads often drowning out the featured content they seek, we must understand that this feeling of “annoyance” may be more justified than we may realize as yet another social media privacy scandal comes to light.

Yet despite these unfortunate circumstances, the fact remains that as long as brands focus on earning the trust of their consumers, data privacy and personalization can coexist. This is made possible by publicly committing to use of such data as originally consented to by the consumer, and following up with actions to prove your brand’s fealty to that promise.

When the General Data Protection Regulation was drafted into existence by the European Union, it gave consumers a way to view their right to privatize their data in a whole new light. In short, it grants web users the right to be “forgotten” when they choose, which soon proved to be a major turning point the realm of digital marketing. By creating regulations and legislation to protect a user’s right to consent, we can rest assured in the knowledge that we can choose to offer our information – or not – at any given time.

We are all familiar with our ability to “opt-out” or “unsubscribe” from mailing lists. It may be a tad overwhelming to keep up with all of them, and may even roll our eyes at the countless reminders that fill up our inboxes every day. And unless you happen to be one of those control-oriented personalities who monitor their emails to the point of obsession, it is unsurprising to learn that customers tend to disregard their email; often deleting messages without even reading them simply because they do not recognize the name of the sender – which is, unfortunately, not the same thing as unsubscribing.

Targeted marketing efforts must be relevant to the customer’s interests if they are to have any chance of succeeding. Yet despite this notion, the lines themselves can still look a little blurry when it comes to when we are permitted access to such information. This is the reason why pop-ups requesting to “accept cookies” even exist. This is how we request consent for access to user data.

Permitting the use of cookies will not enable outside sources to access your device; nor can they be used to spread viruses. The cookies accrued on your device apps are not harmful, but they do carry information that you freely provide to websites through the creation of your personalized login accounts. This is why we recommend that you only “accept cookies” on websites that you perceive to be safe and secure.

Marketing strategies have to evolve in order to continue the practice of respectful research in the virtual field. The days of mass marketing to a sea of unwitting prospects is over. When it comes to digital marketing, we need to approach this matter using ethical retargeting and segmentation. It’s a change that is essential if we are to move forward with respect to our customers on the virtual stage.

Composing and Investing in Relevant Engagement Tactics

This is our bread and butter! If you are unsure of where to start, Two Trees can help you compose a realistic plan for digital engagement. If you would like to attempt this task on your own, no worries! We have several past articles that may help you in your personal journey.

As long as brands focus on earning the trust of their consumers, data privacy and personalization can coexist.

This is made possible by publicly committing to use of such data as originally consented to by the consumer, and following up with actions to prove your brand’s fealty to that promise.”

Creating Meaningful Connections

Developing a personal connection with your audience is key in the modern world, especially after the last year of social distancing. Personalized apps such as TikTok have taken the world by storm, introducing “Reels” as a major source of entertainment and information. As a result, it has now become the number one recommended form of free advertising! Unfortunately, there is no such thing as true data privacy when you use apps like TikTok.

It is a safe enough gamble to presume that those who create Reels and engage with them are “free game” for marketing campaigns, but that doesn’t mean they can be used for mass marketing. In order to address this glaring oversight, the company recently announced that users will soon start seeing ads based on the content they peruse through while using the app.

This is good news, as users must be allowed the right to choose who has full access to their devices. And though not every app is designed to respect the user’s right to their data privacy, it’s important to know how that affects us as we cater our campaigns to better appeal to our respective audiences.

While Reels on TikTok and Instagram are indeed popular among younger generations, they are not the only method of creating meaningful connections with the public. The key is to consider what constitutes thoughtful engagement.

Thanks to the rise of social media platforms, a majority of digital marketers are able to focus on reaching out to their target audience directly. For example, if one of our clients wishes to sell artisan tea, all we have to do now is customize our campaign to target those who “Like” or “Follow” tea-making companies.

If another client makes pizza, and they wish to market their food to anyone visiting their area, they can create a custom display ad that pops up on the device on any relevant user whose device passes through their zip code. These new tactics were created with the intention of making personal connections with future customers.

To people who have already granted access to cookies that will help point them in the direction of the things they love most. And if they do not wish to participate in those particular ads? Well, the good news is they can always choose to opt-out. In the end, it really is all about respecting our fellow humans and their irrefutable right to consent.

Shifting Focus

When we take a step back to look at the facts of all this, we can assure you that data protection regulations are incredibly helpful when it comes to customizing online searches and respecting your privacy. It is possible for data privacy and personalization to coexist on the web. We just need to take a good, hard look at the flaws and failings of mass marketing and allow each person the freedom to adjust accordingly.

Not everyone is going to want to grant access to cookies and other user data, and that is perfectly fine. What matters is that we, as business owners, do our best to adapt while shifting focus on creating meaningful connections with the users who actually want what we have to offer.

We understand that it can be a tad overwhelming for those users who are less familiar with the inner workings of modern technology and social media. We also understand that despite all our carefully chosen precautions, data privacy breaches are still a common risk. For those of you who are concerned about how to better protect your data on social media, we look forward to addressing that subject in more detail in our next article: 7 Steps to Avoid Privacy Breaches on Facebook.

Targeted content is quickly proving to be a godsend to marketers and consumers alike. It gives us the opportunity to direct our content more efficiently, while simultaneously honoring the customer and their right to choose. And as we continue to learn and adapt to these very relevant changes, it is important to remember that web users deserve every chance to deny access as much as they allow it. When our users know they can trust us to respect their right to choose, businesses of all sizes will have a far better chance of serving their community.

Because consent is everything, and always worth it.

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