How Data Privacy is Affecting Digital Marketing with Punit Bhatia

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Should you be worried about the new privacy features in iOS14 and how they impact advertising? Is GDPR only applicable in the EU and are there other privacy laws you should be aware of? In this episode, Chris Casale and Ryan Smith chat with privacy expert Punit Bhatia about all the new privacy laws, what consumers need to be aware of, and how businesses can be transparent while still advertising their products and services effectively.

Punit Bhatia, who is one of the leading privacy experts having worked with professionals in over 30 countries to guide business and industry leaders on GDPR based privacy strategy and compliance through online as well as in-person training and consulting. Punit is a global speaker who has spoken at over 30 global events and is a host creator of the Fit for Privacy podcast, which has been ranked among the top GDPR podcasts in 2020. He is a certified fellow in Information Privacy and he’s the author of three privacy books, including the best GDPR book, Be Ready for GDPR. The name of his upcoming book is AI and Privacy How to Find Balance

Podcast Highlights

Chris Casale: [00:03:41] Privacy is such an important topic and there’s so much happening in the world and in the news today and it impacts everybody. And we have a ton of questions lined up for you. But I really wanted to start off with twofold. 

On the first hand, I’d love to know a little bit more of your background. How does one say, I want to get into the world of privacy or I want to be a privacy expert? And then as a follow up to that, because believe it or not, this is one of the questions we get asked. 

Why is privacy important? I think a lot of businesses and consumers don’t understand why it is such a vital component to their freedom. And I’m curious what you would say about that. 

Punit Bhatia: [00:04:17] That’s interesting. So nobody gets into privacy by choice. At least that’s what I’ve seen. Either you’re a lawyer or you’re in a job and you get into it things. 

So it happened in around 2015-16. I was in the bank and I was looking for a change. I was a program manager and I said there’s a program on data that’s something to do with I.D. and privacy. Can you handle it? And they told me two program managers have left in two years. 

I said, okay, that one is for me. And then as I entered it, I found it was relating to GDPR, data privacy. I set it up and thankfully I stayed three and a half years. So I broke the pattern of people leaving out from the data privacy. What is a program and that’s how I entered into privacy. 

And as I saw some gaps or some people needing help, I wrote a book. Then I started speaking. And that’s how important it was, not by design, but it was also not an accident. It was a mix of choice and opportunity matching at the same time. 

But the other question you ask is, why is privacy important in the two dimensions? I think everybody knows we as humans need privacy. And some people say I don’t need privacy. I’m very open to them. I ask and saying, hey, give me your bank account number and send it to me on email. I’ve spoken to 30+ conferences, maybe 5,000+ people. Nobody ever sent in and asked me saying privacy is not important, but that’s human aspect.  

What’s the state of 3rd party cookies?

Ryan Smith: [00:07:20] Most people, they know there’s data being collected, but they really don’t know what is being collected. And then what happens when they collect that data? What do they do with it? 

I always like to think of even like apps. If you’re getting an app that’s for free, it’s not really free and it comes back to the data that it’s collecting and they’re going to monetize that data in some form or other. But going back to the cookies, we’re hearing a lot right now about the sort of the state of third party cookies is changing, especially in 2021. 

Can you give us your opinion of kind of where it’s at and where do you see that going towards when it comes to data and privacy? 

Punit Bhatia: [00:08:03] We are in the digital economy and everything is data and it’s due to pandemic (because) everything is being done digitally. Business is also being done digitally. So it’s essential, it’s essential to protect that data. 

And that’s why all these laws, all of these things are geared towards protecting data. And that’s when the cookies come in. Because if you go to a website and you rightly say, I go to a website and they start tracking me, I go to an app, they start tracking me, I need to be understanding what’s happening here, what are they collecting? 

And it’s OK, the good websites. But then there are the bad ones and who differentiate the good and the bad. I mean, not you, not me, not us. Let’s put it like that. And that’s why we need somebody neutral and that’s where the laws come in. 

And when you talk about cookies, some websites are dropping cookies like anything. I mean, you are from the marketing world. So I can talk some jargon with some of my privacy friends. It’s challenging. 

I mean, Google Analytics tags your Facebook pixels. Half the websites I go there, Facebook pixel is on while our friends in Google and Amazon have been fined $140 million. 

So about $40 million for Google, $60 million for Google and then $40 million from Amazon on this aspect of cookies. 

So dropping cookies, I mean it’s a strict no no, that’s where it’s going. And it’s not just GDPR. People think it’s GDPR. 

There’s also eprivacy directive in the EU which prohibits dropping off cookies. It’s not just personal data. You can’t put in cookies without consent. And I’m not talking about the essential cookies which we need for performance of website. 

It’s the analytical, it’s the tracking and so on because we all have faced it. I go to or any .com. I’m there. I want to buy the product. A few minutes later, I’m in or and I see the ad of the product. How come? I mean, it’s not magic. It’s not a coincidence. Something is happening in the background. 

So there is a lot of data being captured and there needs to be action to mitigate and reduce those risks. I mean if you’re on a porn site, if you are on any incorrect site let’s put it like that, without taking a lot of names, then if you are getting tracked, everybody knows. But your news website, your email, website or your own what you say newspaper is tracking you, that’s getting too much. And that’s where we need a little bit more transparency, a little bit more content and a lot of lawfulness.  

…we need a little bit more transparency, a little bit more content and a lot of lawfulness.  

Punit Bhatia

Chris Casale: [00:10:49] There’s an ongoing battle right now between Apple and Facebook, where Apple’s in the process of implementing some new privacy constraints with iOS 14. Facebook is fighting it tooth and nail, saying you’re destroying the free Internet. It’s kind of hard to see Facebook as the good guy in all of this, because the privacy is a strong balance. 

But I understand their argument here, which is that if I want to be able to reach people, I have to understand sort of what their interests are, the same the psychographics and the demographics of that person, and that’s going to be blocked from me. So what is that happy medium? 

Punit Bhatia: [00:11:55] If I’m interested in being analyzed, I would let you know if I am and you can be smart about it. Are you okay to be analyzed at this level? Are you okay to be analyzed at this level? And are you okay to receive marketing offers if cookies like that? 

If there were cookies like that, I usually say, please analyze me. No problem, unless I’m going to a website which I don’t want them to track me. We all do that once in a while, but on most websites I would say analyze me, but don’t send me marketing offers. 

So I’m very generous in that sense. But tell them what you are doing and do what you’re telling them. So transparency and a limitation of purpose. Transparency, meaning tell them what you are doing and limitation means do what you’re told. 

Not ‘we will analyze you anonymously’ and later on I find out it’s not so anonymous. That’s not done. And I don’t feel if they are tracking me, but I feel if you are tracking my bank account and then from there the money is siphoned off or my profile is created about who I am not. 

So on Facebook, I’m careful on which post I like and which I don’t like because they will make a network of what, they’ve already made it, of who are my relatives? Well, who are my ancestors? Which kind of friends I like and not. So that’s a strict no no because why, now the people are saying it’s my business model I mean that’s the game in the ATT that Apple is introducing. 

Apple is saying we will introduce transparent application tracking. That is, apps have to tell what do they track, what data they collect. I don’t see anything wrong unless you’re collecting something wrong. And the good part is in a marketing or data, we all say we need good data. 

We don’t need big data, we need quality data. If people are saying yes, well, I mean, if I’m going to get a loan, I would obviously turn on marketing cookies. But if I don’t need a loan, why would I say send me marketing offers? 

So it will increase the quality of data and improve the success ratio or whatever numbers we have click ratios and even conversion ratios if we transparently enable it. The issue is nobody is right now transparently enabling it and everybody’s in a dilemma. But look at the good companies. 

They are enabling it. And they didn’t get out of business. I mean, if you can argue for Facebook, on the contrary, Apple would also not like to be out of business. 

One takeaway for all business on Data and Privacy

Punit Bhatia: [00:29:14] I would just put it in two lines and I will not summarize what I said, but I will say differently. One, you process a lot of data, but some of the personal data of data relates to people. When it relates to people directly or indirectly, that means it can identify us as individuals. 

Be careful and be aware that it is in scope or limit of a privacy law, GDPR or wherever. And when you are processing that, just call somebody or ask somebody, what do you need to do? And don’t take that risk because it’s not worth the risk. 

I had the same challenge when I set up my website. I wanted Facebook active from start, but I chose not to. The hard decision as an entrepreneur and being a privacy person, it was even more hard because, you know, if I was just an entrepreneur, I would have done it. 

So just be aware of what your responsibility is and ask somebody you don’t need to become an expert. You guys are doing wonderful stuff. I interact with you. You also say the same thing. You cannot be an expert in everything. So for marketing, come to you guys and you have this wonderful podcast. Same thing. 

If you need a little bit of help in privacy, just ask someone who’s an expert and whoever you trust and keep an eye on it, then get somebody on her list or panel or whatever you call it, or the dinner and work with them. 

Chris Casale: [00:30:39] That’s great advice. Promote a little transparency definitely goes a long way. And I think just letting individuals know what you’re doing, then they can make the choice and then you can adjust your business if you need to based on their reactions to it. So that’s phenomenal advice.  

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