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Ask The Expert: How private is our Data?

With JS Cardinal

For most urbanites, it is almost impossible NOT to have a digital presence. Our lives revolve around our devices for connectivity and efficiency. When people lose them they panic, feel distressed and in some cases, get anxiety issues. So here’s the dilemma – on one hand, we are dependent on being connected, but we also hear about things like identity theft and digital stalkers. So when we hear of data driven marketing companies, how much do they know of us? How private is our data?

JS: When we work with partner telco data, we work within their closed walls. We don’t get personal information. We only get data about individual devices. We can use this data to build additional features such as credit score or browsing patterns, but in the end, only the mobile carrier knows the identity of its users.

3Ditor: But isn’t that the same thing?

JS: No. Mobile carriers need to know their own users’ identities, but we don’t. In our non-telco Data Management Platform (DMP), we see the devices by identifier IDs. But they do not tell me that it belongs to Mr. Alan or Ms. Sasha. There is no Personally Identifiable Information (PII), as the only identifier that is used to collect and collate information is the privacy-safe advertising ID

3Ditor: What are privacy-safe advertising IDs?

JS: There are various names and acronyms for this ID – the most frequently seen are – for iOS devices, IDFA (ID For Advertisers) or IFA for short; and AAID (Android Advertising ID) for Android devices; or the more inclusive MAID (Mobile Advertising ID).

3Ditor: Is this legal?

JS: This identifier is friendly to the PDPA (Personal Data Protection Act), as it merely identifies a mobile device – not its owner. In Europe, the GDPR (Global Data Protection Regulation) considers MAID as PII, and while we are not subject to GDPR ourselves, we do everything we can to abide by it.

3Ditor: Why do you need this information?

JS: It’s about the user. There are a lot of advertisers out there and no one wants to see ads that are simply not relevant to them. So to minimize that, personas are built from user behavior on the device which will indicate the preferences of the user. So ads will only be shown if the relevant criteria is met. Like a fashionista who loves shopping online will more likely be shown ads for clothes and not ads for hardware.

3Ditor: Last question, can people opt out of it?

JS: Actually it can be user-reset as frequently as desired in your device’s settings. A user can also choose to opt out of ads personalisation, which effectively prevents tracking and profile building (see below).

If, however, you prefer seeing ads about products and services that you might be interested in, all in the context of your personal identity being protected, instead of ads that are mostly random and irrelevant, then you can feel at ease leaving ads personalisation on.

If you are currently opting out, we actually recommend turning it on for a week, and see if the annoying ads your mobile experience is peppered with start gradually turning into content you occasionally care about.

3Ditor: Ah great, thanks for your time JS. 

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