The marketer’s guide to secure data management

Data privacy and security are top of mind these days, but not just for technology leaders. Secure data management is a topic at the forefront of modern marketing, not only because it's top of mind for consumers, but also because marketers are now more frequently tasked with being a key part of or managing how consumer data is collected, stored and used.

In this guide, we’ll define secure data management, data privacy and data sharing. Then outline why data management is integral to marketing today and offer advice on data security.

What is secure data management?

Secure data management describes the process of acquiring, storing, managing, using and protecting your data. This data can come from a variety of sources, internal and external alike. Protecting data is essential for:

  • Organizations that have a responsibility to protect user data
  • Marketers who need accurate and trustworthy data to power campaigns
  • Consumers who demand and expect their data to be secure and private

These practices aim to keep companies and consumers safe from unintentional errors and hackers.

Data management also includes data security—the process of safeguarding your information to ensure its privacy, availability and integrity. Marketers' data and all digital assets must always be protected from theft, corruption and unauthorized access.

Data privacy

Marketers have access to a wealth of information about their customers, including (but not limited to) personally identifiable information (PII), behavioral data, and purchases. This makes data privacy extremely important, and marketers should only use this personal information for the purposes listed in their notices to their customers and in accordance with their customers’ expectations.

Data availability

Data needs to be available for use. From campaign analysis to strategic segmentation, your data needs to be kept secure, while also being accessible to the appropriate parties.

Availability can be a challenge, but is solvable by using permission-based controls and data backups.

Data integrity

Data integrity means the data hasn’t been corrupted or compromised, either intentionally or unintentionally. Marketers need to trust their data is clean, accurate and complete or they won’t feel confident or comfortable using it.

To ensure data integrity, you may restrict certain access—such as editing of data files—to certain team members. These checks and balances help protect against accidental errors.

What is data sharing?

Secure data sharing is the process of sharing information with others in accordance with technical and organizational measures developed and implemented to protect the data. Sharing can happen within an organization, or between partner organizations. An example would be data integrations that happen between your customer relationship management tool (CRM) and email service provider (ESP). Or between your customer data platform (CDP) and your digital media provider for activation. The process can be on servers or via cloud data sharing.

Data sharing services make information available for use, which aids in transparency, efficiency and collaboration. It also enables organizations to disseminate information across all teams, augment internal data with broader market data, make more data-driven decisions and create a single source of truth for all data.

The sharing of secure data is vital for marketing success—you have to get data from one place to another at many points in the marketing process—but must be done in a legal, ethical, secure and protected manner to mitigate risk.

Why should marketers care about secure data management?

Secure data management is important for many reasons. Specific to marketers, here are a few reasons why you should care about how your customer data is managed and used across marketing:

  1. Privacy and security are vital for customer trust and to preserve your reputation. Data breaches, attacks or misuse can significantly impact customer confidence in your brand, leading to potential loss of business and a damaged reputation. IBM found that the average data breach costs companies $4M, half being from fixing the issue, and the other half from lost revenue. Consumers are already wary of sharing personal information; not taking their privacy seriously will only deepen their mistrust. By handling consumer data responsibly, you can help retain customers and cultivate loyalty.
  2. Personalized marketing campaigns rely on data integrity. Without customer data, you won’t be able to run effective and personalized marketing activations. You need access to accurate and high-quality data to tailor messages, offers and experiences. Having a strong data management process also makes marketing teams more efficient, since they can access information quickly and easily.
  3. Strong data security is a differentiator. Many companies haven’t figured out how to protect their data from misuse or abuse. This is why it's so important to work with a trusted data partner like Epsilon who puts data security and compliance at the center of everything we do. 

Simply put, by prioritizing partners and platforms with a secure data service, marketers can build customer trust, comply with regulations, maintain a competitive edge and execute effective and personalized marketing strategies.

Topics to consider when looking to secure data

Securing your data for stronger marketing campaigns requires a comprehensive approach to data protection, privacy and security. Here are some topics to consider as you're thinking about this.

Governance protocols

Policies that govern how data are used within an organization can be extremely important. Companies interested in establishing these governance protocols often take the time to review their current processes, partners and technology stacks to understand what’s working and what needs improvement.

Essentially, these companies examine what information they have and how they can protect it.

A first step often undertaken by these companies is understanding their entire data supply chain, including the source, ownership, usage and storage of data. These companies seek to holistically know how data comes into and out of their organization. Then, they ensure that each step and source follows data best practices, like encryption, access controls, authentication processes, firewalls and strong password protection to safeguard data.

Data classification helps companies understand what data sources need heightened security beyond standard security measures. Companies often build their processes with these classifications in mind.

Then, companies develop processes around the responsible management of their data. This doesn’t just mean immediately, but also long term. These are the typical questions they consider:

  • Who is responsible for data security?
  • What is our process for monitoring and auditing our data management protocols and partners?
  • Who can access what data? And how can that data be used?
  • What are our data retention and deletion policies?
  • Who sets up new users? And what’s the process for deleting user accounts?
  • When are software updates conducted, especially those with security enhancements?
  • How and when do we back up our data?

It's important to bear in mind that things change constantly, both laws and consumer expectations. Secure corporate data management for marketing purposes isn’t a one-time endeavor, but rather an ongoing and consistent process requiring clear oversight. Companies often familiarize themselves with relevant data protection regulations to ensure their governance protocols are compliant. And if they work with outside partners and platforms, they ensure they're adhering and exceeding standards so their secure data share doesn't become a risk to their business.

Sensitive data access limitation

Controlling who has access to the data and specifying the level of access is crucial to help companies ensure data security and privacy.

Here are a few ways companies often control access to their data:

  • Data encryption: Encryption puts data into an unreadable form, ensuring that only authorized users can access data.
  • Data classification: Companies often go back to their list of data sources and classifications and determine the type of access control required. The more sensitive and private the data, the more safeguards they typically need.
  • Access control models: A common tactic companies employ is allowing access based on role and seniority. This means users won’t get access to data sources they don’t need to do their jobs. Other access control models include discretionary, mandatory or attribute-based permissions.
  • Authentication: Companies often use authentication to verify the person who is accessing their data.
  • Audit logs: Companies often regularly monitor their logins to help identify suspicious behavior, like logging in from other locations, at odd times of day, or too frequently. This includes monitoring users to add or delete users in real time.
  • Secure file transfer: When sharing data, there is very often a need for file transfers. Companies often try to ensure their transfer protocols keep their data secure at all times.
  • Password management: Companies often implement 2-factor authentication and other password management processes or tools to make sure unauthorized users can’t access their data.
  • Anonymization: By anonymizing sensitive personal data, companies often try to further protect consumer information from unauthorized access.
  • Minimization: Many companies collect only necessary data and avoid keeping extra information in an effort to reduce risks. These companies also often aim to demonstrate respect for customers' privacy.

By implementing these measures, companies hope to effectively limit access to sensitive data, protect against unauthorized access and ensure compliance with data security regulations.

Usage of a customer data platform (CDP)

Marketers collect data through many disparate channels. One way companies often try to help streamline their secure data management process is by using a reliable and secure database. Companies often and increasingly are turning to a customer data platform (CDP) to allow them to manage all their data inputs and organize them in a meaningful way.

A CDP is a system that collects and manages customer data from various touchpoints, such as websites, mobile apps and social media, to create a unified customer profile. This profile can then be used for marketing and personalization.

CDPs can play a helpful role for companies in secure data management by centralizing and streamlining customer data infrastructure, which supports customer data security. Key ways a CDP can contribute to secure data management include:

  • CDPs centralize customer data infrastructure, reducing the risk associated with siloed data and ensuring responsible data usage.
  • CDPs centralize customer data in a single, secure location, which allows organizations to manage and activate member or reader data in a privacy-compliant manner.
  • CDPs support data governance by establishing how data can be accessed, used, and secured within an organization.

A data clean room can also support companies' data security processes. At its core, a clean room is an audience insights tool that is a safe space in which data is used to facilitate data enrichment and sharing.

However, while CDPs and clean rooms play a crucial role in centralizing and securing customer data, they do not totally eliminate the need for ongoing oversight and management of data security and privacy practices.

Managing secure data with privacy by design

One way organizations have attempted to keep up with the ever-evolving privacy needs of consumers and regulatory shifts is Privacy by Design, a concept that promotes integrating privacy and data protection measures into the design and development of systems, products and processes right from the outset, rather than adding them on as an afterthought. This was introduced by Dr. Ann Cavoukian, the former Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada, in the 1990s, and continues to hold strong.

Privacy by Design promotes a proactive and holistic approach to privacy protection, aiming to embed privacy considerations into the core of technological innovations and organizational practices. There are seven core principles of Privacy by Design:

  • Proactive not reactive: Rather than addressing privacy issues after they arise, Privacy by Design aims to anticipate and prevent privacy breaches and risks before they occur.
  • Privacy as the default setting: Systems should be designed to ensure that privacy is the default setting, meaning that users' personal information is protected by default, and they must take action to change their privacy preferences if they desire.
  • Privacy embedded into design: Privacy measures should be embedded into the design and architecture of systems and processes, rather than being added on as an afterthought.
  • Full functionality: Privacy measures should not compromise the functionality of systems and products. Users should still be able to enjoy all the features and benefits without sacrificing their privacy.
  • End-to-end security: Privacy by Design advocates for comprehensive security measures to protect data throughout its entire lifecycle, from collection to storage, use and disposal.
  • Visibility and transparency: Users should be informed about how their data is being collected, used and shared, as well as the measures in place to protect their privacy. Transparency builds trust between users and organizations.
  • Respect for user privacy: Privacy by Design emphasizes the importance of respecting users' privacy preferences and providing them with control over their personal information.
For 10+ years, Epsilon’s solutions have been built with Privacy by Design principles in mind. All our privacy-first solutions empower our clients’ data management efforts without compromising marketing performance. If you want your customer data to get the same level of data validity, high level of data understanding and governance, considering a privacy-safe customer data platform is a great place to start. Learn more about Epsilon PeopleCloud Customer.