The current drama surrounding Facebook and the sharing of client information has turned into a nightmare for Mark Zuckerberg and his business, but this topic is not purely a Facebook issue or even a problem unique to social media.

There are plenty of stories flying around in the media about the use of our data. Many companies today collect data about their clients and that’s led to a global push for more privacy. The knock-on effect for business is enormous and marketing is affected more than most aspects.

.What is interesting about the Facebook drama is the slipshod control the social media giant seemingly has placed over the way third parties may use data about its users. Facebook promotes access to its users in terms of paid advertising. As such, it and Google have become two of the most prominent digital marketing players in the world.

Consumers’ concerns about the way their private information is being shared and used have been bubbling away for years. In Australia, the use of data was big news a few years ago, when people started realising that loyalty programs, such as those Coles and Woolworths employ, provide a trove of data about our purchasing habits. And the big supermarkets are not alone.

As marketers, having a picture of how our clients want to consume the services or products we sell is crucial. Thanks to the use of artificial intelligence and the associated business intelligence tools the fact is that analytics of consumer behaviour is here to stay.

What will be important is the ethics of how we use our clients’ data and, perhaps more importantly, how we manage it.

There are already safeguards in Australia – ranging from privacy laws to the SPAM Act – that regulate the way companies can market to clients. New mandatory data breach notification regulations recently came into effect, and they have wide-ranging implications. For the moment, only firms with a turnover of more than $3 million are affected, but it’s just a matter of time until all businesses will have the same obligations.

Business with a $3 million-plus turnover should consider how to store client data. Is it securely stored in a document management system? Are you able to provide audit trails about who has access to it?

Under the new legislation, you must report any data breach. If you fail to do this, you can be liable. We all need to focus on how we use our client data. From a marketing perspective, we may be reaching a turning point in what consumers will tolerate.

With thanks to Anthony O'Brien.

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