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Data Ethical Personalization

Blog. Danish companies want to offer more personalized advertising. They are asking for a revision of a payment services act, which is fair enough, as it will ensure fair competition with global services who can use our credit card data for personalization. But it is associated with high risks, if personalization is not done in an ethical and sensitive way.  Digital trust among consumers is rock bottom already, and consumers do not demand personalization, as The Confederation of Danish Enterprises claim. At least not if they are asked in a way, where they understand how personalization is done.

Danmarks Radio reports on the business pressure to get access our credit card data. In P1 Morgen (2:25 minutes inside in Danish), I explain why personalization is not a new easy accessible goldmine for marketing people. It must be done carefully and with deep insight into customers’ behaviour.

For almost two decades, Amazon has managed to make intelligent personalization. And when it is about receiving personalized content and advertising on one specific site, 29% of the Danes are okay with it, according to a representative survey from The Danish Business Authority and IDA (in Danish). But if companies use cookies to personalize ads across websites, the acceptance goes as low as 14%.

International surveys such as Eurobarometer, show the same trends. In Norway, the DPA asked in a different way (survey is in English). 79% says that personalization and data sharing make them uncomfortable, and 73% would rather have random ads than targeted ads. See below:

Skærmbillede 2016-08-09 kl. 10.29.45normændene1

Younger Brits Say Yes

According to a survey from Amazeone, young brits like personalization. Asked ‘how comfortable are you with companies tailoring ads based on your past purchases’ just over a quarter of respondents said they were happy to receive tailored offers. 39% said they were not, although the data varied wildly with age, see below. uk-personalisationHere we need to keep in mind, that the younger generation also know much better how to avoid tracking. Most surveys show that over half of all Millenials use adblockers – this one even shows a much higher number – which are also blocking for the cookies used by companies to personalize content.

Data Ethical Personalization

So how do you do it in an ethical way, which do not destroy a company’s reputation or scare customers away?

There are at least two important things to do:

It must be opt-in. The customer must understand what he / she says yes to and actively say yes to the fact that the company may use their data to personalization. Not like today, when people actively have to fight to get out of it again, because it happens automatically when you sign up for a service via Terms of Conditions or via the yes-please-to-cookies.

–  The customer must have full data control. The company must promise its customers with and give them the opportunity to control their own data, for example that they can change or completely erase all their data from the website anytime. Studies show that giving people control over their own data (meaning their life and privacy), they are also more willing to share data with companies. The right to be forgotten is also part of the new EU privacy regulation entering into force 2018.

In addition, companies should think carefully before sharing data with the third party. A woman asked me recently how the heck Facebook could know that her mother had Alzheimer’s. She had never told Facebook! I asked if she had searched on Google for ‘Alzheimer’, or whether she had been at Both. And then I had to explain that a website like tells Facebook that she has been there through its cookie-use. It is sensitive data, and the woman was shocked to find that this is how it is done.

Service Announcement: You can block its browser to pages share data with each other by installing And search engines like or tracker not your searches.