Fair data is honourable but far from finished

The introduction of the “fair data” mark which demonstrates a company is handling data ethically is a worthwhile exercise that taps into growing fear among consumers they no longer control their data. It provides customers with some assurances brands are acting responsibly but if it is to become the “fair trade of data” its champions want it to be, more B2C companies than the two signed up need to back it and consumers need educating on what it means for them.

Russell Parsons

To mark the launch of data privacy day today (28 January), the Market Research Society (MRS) has launched the “fair data” standard, which will be awarded to any brand that can demonstrate they meet 10 criteria determined by the MRS.

There are eight launch partners, including such luminaries as pwc and GfK NOP, and all existing MRS members will automatically be awarded the standard if they are signatories of the society’s code of conduct. However, only two consumer facing companies – Lucozade and Ribena owner GSK and Lil-lets – have signed up.

These are early days, of course. MRS CEO Jane Frost told Marketing Week it has had several expressions of interest from other companies keen to be involved. It is also talking with trade associations including the Advertising Association and ISBA about ways to encourage their members to sign up and offer in-kind marketing support to raise awareness among consumers.

The outcome of these talks will determine whether “fair data” will become an after thought or a force for change. Frost told me she wanted the logo to resonate as loudly as the fair trade mark.

In order for it do so, two boxes need to be ticked. There needs to be a desire among consumers and a credibility offered by those carrying the mark.

There is evidence the former is the case - MRS says 58 per cent of enquiries to its Codeline advisory service last year were from people concerned over data collection methods and there has been other studies suggesting the same.

In order for it to gain credibility, however, wide-spread adoption by consumer-facing brands and an in-kind marketing support, provided by the marketing industry, to explain what it means for consumers is necessary.

To add any value and avoid it becoming a pat on the back among those whose business it is to handle data, work is necessary.

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