How Marketers Can Earn Trust on Data Privacy: Don’t be like the Federal Government

Posted by IAB Australia On August 11, 2014

The Federal Government shows us what not to do when it comes to data privacy and data collection. I think I can be forgiven for being surprised when I found out the Federal Government does in fact have a public relations company on its books.

You wouldn’t know it judging by some of the ministerial performances given this week. One that particularly piqued my interest was the announcement by the federal government that they would be legislating data retention laws to fight “homegrown terrorists”.

As an aside – I do love that the most appropriate photo the Daily Telegraph could find to accompany this exclusive report was some guy playing World of Warcraft.


IT Wire provided great coverage on the announcement, highlighting that ISPs were yet to be properly consulted on the legislation before it was announced, and the Attorney-General George Brandis could not say who would bear the cost of implementing such a scheme.

iiNet released an infographic suggested the cost to the consumer would be around $130 per year. This from a government that pledged to reduce consumer costs if elected.

Naturally with the announcement of legislative intention, the government had to go out and sell it. We all wanted to know what they meant by metadata, the exclusions, what circumstances would the data be available to law enforcement agencies…

All leading to this performance by George Brandis on SkyNews.


It doesn’t exactly spark confidence. The ultra-conservative Andrew Bolt wrote: If you can’t explain what you’re spying on, I don’t want you to even look.

The Australian had a dig. Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott were trotted out to allay fears. Brandis was remixed.

The government’s performance in trying to sell the legislation has been poor from the start. Tony Abbott even made mention to “Team Australia” in the initial press announcement. Sometimes you wonder if this is all a bad dream.

There’s a lesson here for marketers. Don’t talk about data collection unless you can explain what, why, and how it is being collected and used.

We go from conference to conference talking about big data and all the ways we can use it to improve the customer experience and yet, consumers are still concerned when it comes to data privacy and customised marketing experiences based on collected data.

A 2013 study by IAB UK into data privacy concerns showed that:

  • 44% of respondents were aware of data being used to serve relevant content
  • 71% wanted to know how to control the data privacy &
  • 75% said companies need to be clearer about what kind of data they hold

We may laugh at the ineptitude of the government in selling data collection. But based on these reports it’s fair to say we haven’t been doing a great job ourselves.

What’s the first step?

Be honest and transparent. We have in-depth conversations within the marketing industry about what data we want and how we want to use it. Would we feel comfortable having that same conversation with the consumer?

If not, it’s time to rethink our strategy.

IAB Australia

IAB Australia is the peak trade association for online advertising in Australia. As one of over 43 IAB offices globally and with a rapidly growing membership, the role of the IAB is to support sustainable and diverse investment in digital advertising across all platforms in Australia.