A “rising anxiety” linked to personal data and the rise of advanced information-gathering tools will require a heightened focus from marketers, according to Scott McDonald, president/CEO of the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF).

“There’s a lot of personal data, far more than there was two years ago,” McDonald told a seminar audience at Advertising Week New York 2018. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: ARF probes personal-data use, ownership.)

Current data practices, the ARF chief continued, are generating “rising anxiety,” as evidenced by hearings at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the European Union’s GDPR rules and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Indeed, McDonald noted, even advertising and marketing advocacy groups have come to realise that some sort of consumer protection from data misuse is an imperative.

“The play now at the industry and the association level is very much shifting ground in favor of some form of national regulation – maybe not as strict as GDPR, but something that would avoid the nightmare of having to negotiate 50 different state-level regulations,” he said.

And while the ARF is creating a Code of Conduct to help deal with the evolving climate, it faces the challenge of keeping up with debates over privacy in Colorado, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington, as well as California.

“The law is likely to be changing with regard to privacy,” McDonald told WARC. “So we don’t really want to be out in front of the law.

“And the Code will follow the law and follow the lead of other organizations that are more specialized around some of those issues, particularly in regard to marketing.”

But, he allowed, “There’s this kind of queasy ethical space that I think a lot of people need to focus on” – not least because of the increasing sophistication of technologies from digital targeting to biometrics and facial-recognition systems.

“Technology has a relentless ability to kind of just run forward. And technology is amoral; it can be used for good or for bad purposes. And it certainly can be used to intrude into people’s privacy, however we define that.”

Sourced from WARC