Privacy is experiencing a sea change. The only sensible business response for online B2B marketing companies is to get ready—with change, there’s opportunity. Companies will soon start competing on privacy.
There are currently companies in the marketplace that have good privacy practices. Good privacy practices are ones that respect a subscriber’s data and make clear how data is collected, how it is shared and with whom. There are also companies out there that have bad privacy practices. Bad privacy practices are obtuse, obscure—and, at worst, outright dishonest.
Today there is no good way for consumers to know which companies have good data practices and which have bad data practices. That’s about to change. As the types of initiatives that are being discussed by the FTC, Commerce Department and the EU government are adopted by industry, something wonderful will happen: consumers will be empowered with real, actionable information. They will be able to tell who’s good and who’s bad when it comes to privacy. This means that consumers will be able to easily factor privacy practices into their buying decisions. Privacy and all that it entails – i.e., respecting your subscribers! – will become something that companies compete on.
As things stand today, companies don’t compete on privacy, since subscribers don’t have the info they would need to factor privacy info in their buying decisions. In many cases, the only place consumers today can get privacy info is to wade through the thick legalese of privacy policies on corporate websites. Unfortunately, these privacy policies are too burdensome for consumers to read and understand in any kind of reasonable time frame.
Whatever form the government and self-regulation privacy initiatives finally take, they will help give consumers the information they need to use privacy in their buying decisions. At that point, companies will begin to compete on privacy. For some companies, this will create a positive feedback loop where they get better and better about respecting consumers’ privacy as consumers simultaneously sharpen their privacy buying skills. It’s a virtuous cycle where the companies doing the right thing win.
One thing is certain, at any rate: privacy in online commerce and B2B marketing is about to get a lot more interesting.