Getting privacy right in a first-party data world

Furqan Wasif

  • Head of biddable media, Tug
Furqan is head of biddable media Australia at global digital marketing agency Tug, which specialises in performance media, delivering end-to-end digital solutions and strategy for global and local clients. Having worked at Columbus Aegis, GroupM Connect, Reprise Media and Artefact Global, Furqan has more than a decade of experience in providing innovative, strategic and efficient solutions that deliver results for clients. He's worked on brands including Carnival Cruises, Optus, Citibank, Woolworths, Kathmandu, THL,Tourism Australia, Lego, Revlon, Samsung and Sanofi.


With continued advances in marketing technology, data privacy continues to play catchup in terms of regulation, safety and use. The laws that do exist are open to interpretation and potential misuse and that has led to consumer mistrust and increasing calls for a stronger regulatory framework to protect personal information.

The European Union developed consistent and general data protection regulations (GDPR) to ensure key areas of concern, such as consent, data protection, encryption, right of access and the right to be forgotten are protected. Australia on the other hand has lagged, with the privacy act of 1988 the last principal piece of legislation designed to protect the handling and potential dissemination of personal data.

Attempts have been made to bridge that gap since, but they didn’t do an adequate job, especially when it comes to everyone’s favourite punching bag - cookies. Laws are not matching the exponential advances in technology.

The digital marketing industry failed to address the growing confusion and concerns around what cookies, more specifically third-party cookies, were being used for (collating your private data such as name, address, and so on) versus what they are used for: Remembering your browsing patterns along with some personal info such as age, gender, behaviour for personalised marketing and analytics purposes.

Scandal driving change

More needs to be done on governing digital activity, especially data, as over recent years there has been a rapid increase in the misuse of data and analytics.

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal is one that immediately comes to mind. It sparked increased public and governmental interest in privacy and social media information. There have also been multiple data breaches with 14 of the biggest data breaches occurring in the last decade.

Due to the constant threat to data and its security, the cybersecurity industry has stepped in, especially in the past five years. Spending on cybersecurity has exploded globally. A staggering US$161.13 billion was spent in 2020 and that is expected to be morphed by an estimated growth of up to US$418.3 billion by 2028.

With so much investment in cybersecurity, where does digital data privacy fit, not only from an organisation or agency view, but from a consumer standpoint? Clearly, organisations and countries are going to great lengths to protect intellectual property, personal and financial information, servers, computers, devices and networks. But there is a disconnect between the advancement of data security and that of digital marketing.

One of the biggest reasons is the digital marketing industry has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and keeping a dominant foothold in the industry. Being able to track consumers end-to-end to measure performance has made digital marketing a very viable channel to gather and break down huge data sets, quickly and with ease.  

The new first party world order

Apple and Google are leading the way to remove third-party cookies, with complete removal now expected by the end of 2022 – although Google has now extended its deadline to the end of 2023 - marketers will face new challenges identifying their audiences and more importantly, how to retarget them when they have shown a prior interaction/interest in a product or service. While these challenges are real - with the major players trying to figure out which solutions are best - it represents an opportunity for marketers and businesses to get on the front foot when it comes to data privacy management.

While third-party cookies will disappear, it does not mean an end to measurement. It just means that what we measure, why we measure it and, most importantly, how we measure it will be different. Understanding how the targeting solutions for each digital publisher works, as well as how they could potentially work together, will go a long way in addressing interest-based advertising on the Internet.

Beyond that, first-party data will become even more important. This means data collected from websites, apps, emails and memberships will be crucial. This data can then be used to inform marketing programs such as ecommerce campaigns, store visits, newsletters, but data privacy will remain a hot topic. This will make it even more important to:

  • Get CRM and its integration with marketing platforms right.
  • Improve communication with the client base and target audiences to deliver a great experience.
  • Invest in correct technologies for your business. There are many to choose from. Understanding how they work separately and with other solutions will go a long way to building audiences to market to. Furthermore, it would be a good idea to look at those solutions that can organise and sort data while providing insights, some aspect of predictive analysis and performance optimisation, without compromising individual privacy.
  • Share the business’ privacy policies and make it clear to customers, or potential customers, how valued their data and privacy are. Adding options to choose and control what is done with their personal data will build goodwill and trust. 

Issues of data and consumer privacy protection will still need to be addressed. The laws continue to lag advances in technology and lawmakers need to move quicker to manage consumer concerns and expectations. But marketers can start now and set their businesses up for future success by not waiting for one particular solution to emerge.

Tags: privacy, advertising, digital marketing, cookies, data-driven marketing, marketing campaigns, data strategy, first-party data, third-party data

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