Netokracija interviewed DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions’ Data&Communications Director Marija Matić.
In your experience, how much personal information do users leave online without even knowing it?
First off, maybe we should start from what actually qualifies as personal information, or personal data. In a nutshell, personal information is any piece of information that pertains to an individual whose identity is identified or identifiable. In other words, for an item of information to be even considered as personal data, it must offer the ability to identify — either directly or indirectly — a specific natural person whom the information concerns.
In today’s world, data is often compared to oil, and the personal data that people leave are fueling multitudes of companies, especially the ad tech giants.
Today we’re talking about the data economy, and data are the main marker indicating whether a company is becoming relevant in the digital ecosystem.
The Internet’s growth is exactly what’s led to data being this important. It even seems to me that the amount of data that is being created day in day out can no longer be clearly gauged. Some estimates suggest that next year will see data climb to 40 zettabytes.
At times it all feels futuristic, when in fact it’s very real and in full swing.
It’s hard to say how aware users are of the importance of data and the amount of it that they leave online.
I think there’s still little grasp and awareness of how much we give away incredible amounts of information about our interests, hobbies, and movements. Every step online, every click, every website visit — posting your own content on social media and other digital channels can be logged. This is simply part of the digital ecosystem and the understructure of the data economy and the benefits developed by companies to improve user experience.
I’m positive that as the awareness of the data economy grows, so will the awareness of personal data being left online and the ways they are collected.
What do users need to know when it comes to collecting and processing data for marketing purposes? How are their data collected and processed? How does DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions do that?
Once again, users need to be aware that information on the Internet is being logged. Cookies and IP addresses make it possible to monitor the movements of internet users and use this to analyze their behavior, interests, content they consume… It goes without saying that users must be informed and given the opportunity to give their permission as to whether they want their data to be collected, in addition to letting them know about the ways and purpose of using their data.
Data science and machine learning are a very important part of analyzing data. These methods make it possible to build user profiles and set up prediction models. The goal is to learn as much as possible about users, anticipate their behavior, and offer them a specific benefit or product at the right time.
As far as our agency is concerned, we do not collect personal information. The data is with the clients, and we try to help them to leverage the information in order to build better CRM that can later be used to better communicate with customers.
Since we have a data science department, we are able to analyze large sets of data and develop different methods, from data visualization and advanced data science analyses to machine learning.
I’s like to point out that our mission is to help companies in solving real business issues with a view to improving our clients’ business and revenue.
How much is data-driven marketing actually used in Serbia? Is the situation changing for the better? What is DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions doing in this regard?
I think we’re at the very beginning. Data-driven marketing is starting to catch on, but there’s still plenty of room. Our conversations with our clients indicate that the biggest obstacle seems to be that they indeed recognize the potential of the data in their possession.
Namely, advertisers are aware of the importance of data and the opportunities to use them, but it seems to me that it’s still not clear how specific data products are obtained and how to monetize data.
It seems to me that at this moment we’re playing a pioneering role in which we’re educating the market not only about the importance of data but, much more importantly, about how data can be used.
Data science — rooted in a combination of mathematics expertise and domain knowledge — is quite abstract to a lot of companies.
One thing is for certain: very soon every company will have to use data science experts, and the data they possess and the ways they use them will be what generates competitive advantage for companies.
We are here for anyone who wants to find out how the data they have and their processing can be put to use.
How are you adjusting to the new Law on Personal Data Protection, which is set to come into effect in August? What is your biggest challenge in this process?
The process of adjusting to the new Law actually started one year earlier, on May 25, 2018, when the GDPR came into force. Since our law largely reflects the GDPR, international companies already completed much of preparatory work.
At this point it’s very important to meet the GDPR’s key requirements concerning the collection and storage of personal data.
In our experience, the biggest challenges still include different interpretations of what makes personal information and whether something comes under the GDPR’s purview or not.
There’s a slew of legitimate interests when it comes to data collection, and yet everything has to be verified to be in compliance with the new law.
However, it seems to me that until the Law comes into force and until we have concrete opinions drawing from experience, we will somehow remain on the theoretical level.
In any event, last year DIRECT MEDIA United Solutions started aligning all its data with the GDPR, which means that we’ll be fully prepared when the data protection law takes effect.