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Data security in cross-device tracking

03. 05. 2018

More and more online marketers are using cross-device tracking for their advertising purposes. This trend has become evident already over the past few years. However, collecting user information brings both advantages and challenges for advertisers. Data security in particular is a recurring topic. But how can companies ensure to comply with data privacy regulations and protect their customers?



Cross-device tracking is a method of collecting online information from various devices to link them to a single user. For this purpose, user profiles are created, that can sometimes contain sensitive information.For a customer, this is an advertisement that follows you from Amazon to Facebook or from your PC to your smartphone. With cross-device tracking, marketers ultimately capitalize on key moments of the customer journey in order to retain the customer.

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Although tracking information can significantly improve the customer experiences and enable marketers to create detailed customer profiles, a company can be negatively implicated. This is the case when tracking is not adequately disclosed.



For more data security in cross-device tracking, associations such as the Network Advertising Initiative or Digital Advertising Alliance have already presented guidelines designed to increase data transparency and control. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission issued a staff report on cross-device tracking in 2017, which provides further recommendations on transparency, sensitive data and security. They are also relevant for German companies, as marketers around the world must follow these basic principles when implementing data security practices for cross-device data.



All parties using cross-device tracking should fully disclose their activities to consumers. They should also inform users about what type of data is collected and what information, such as name or email address, exist.



Companies must give consumers the choice of the extent to which cross-device activities can be tracked. At the same time, customers should always have the option of opting out if they do not want their data to be tracked. Companies must then accept the customer's decision.



Sensitive data such as information about health, finances or children is always a risk. Therefore, this should not be recorded in cross-device tracking - unless the customer explicitly consents.



Data security plays an important role not only in cross-device tracking. Only the most necessary data should be collected and protected against access by unauthorized persons by means of proper security. A reliable security system should therefore be a prerequisite for all cross-device activities. After all, data theft not only harms consumers, but ultimately also the company. 



In order to comply with the data protection guidelines, personal data that can be used to identify a person, must be pseudonymised. Information such as the email address must therefore always be encrypted so that the reference to a person can no longer be drawn. With secure encryption mechanisms, companies ensure that sensitive customer data can no longer be decrypted and is therefore protected at all times.

Companies can gain consumer confidence by setting up reliable security mechanisms, being transparent and giving users the choice of how far cross-device activities can be tracked. This is how companies can lay the foundation for a strong customer relationship.

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