By Ruth Parkinson

Do you know what your privacy notice says? Would you be able to explain its key points to another person?

As a marketer did you have any input in its creation?

Most privacy notices are created by privacy teams, composed of lawyers and tech leaders. They are often couched in legalese and sometimes can run to pages of incomprehensible text.

Savvy consumers demand more

However a growing shift in consumer opinion has acted as a catalyst for forward-thinking companies to look again at their privacy notices, questioning not only if they are fit for purpose, but whether they reflect a company’s brand values and aspirations.

Over the last few years, consumers across the globe have become increasingly knowledgeable about the value of their data and how it is used. They want to know what is being captured and why.

A recent report entitled Privacy Made Positive®, where Securys collaborated with Kantar to look at the US market, discovered virtually all Americans polled (over 90%) are confident (very or somewhat confident) that they know what ‘personal data’ means and nearly 90% pay ‘a great deal’ or some attention to the privacy of their personal data before buying a product or service.

Concurrently, brands are beginning to develop ever more sophisticated privacy strategies (of which the privacy notice is often the most public-facing element) to differentiate themselves from their rivals. 

Clear and transparent messaging

The Securys report also underlined that consumers are looking for one key element - clear and straightforward messaging - from a privacy notice. Half of Americans polled would be more likely to engage with a brand if their privacy policy was in plain language that gives the basics.

The survey also highlighted how pivotal clear and honest privacy notices are to consumers with around 85% stressing that good, transparent notices are very important to them having trust in the brand.

A privacy notice needs to be as transparent as possible. The consumer should understand what personal data is being collected and why the company wants to access it. Users want assurance that their data will be used in a responsible way and not sold on to third parties. 

Securys recently co-hosted a webinar with the American Marketing Association entitled, Privacy Sells: The Value US Consumers Place on Privacy, which discussed these topics.

One of the speakers, Amy Nixon, the Senior Vice President Strategy at 9Rooftops Marketing, highlighted the disconnect that sometimes exists between a brand’s overarching marketing messages and its privacy notices.

“It's very interesting that brands who are extraordinarily thoughtful about the ways that they communicate with their customers, on all kinds of points, default mostly to the legal requirements on communicating privacy to their customers. 

“I'm not saying abandon the legal requirement………. but have a conversation in a way that's true to your brand, and using a voice that appeals to the consumer. Make it one of your content pillars and make sure that you're holding your team accountable as you would any other area of marketing communications.”

Not just words, there are other ways to make privacy more accessible

Marketeers also need to consider the user journey in the privacy notice. For more ‘edgy’ consumer-facing brands, this could be in the form of a pop-up with the type of language used in the rest of the site. For more conservative companies, it may be more formal.

However it isn’t just language. The design of the notice, the colours, the typeface used and the way opt-in options are presented, all needed to be carefully planned and constantly re-assessed.

In an age where younger people tend to consume most of their content via video, companies should be offering privacy notices in this format too, to enhance the written word.

During the webinar Ben Rapp, Founder and Principal of Securys, said he believes there can be many approaches to delivering a privacy policy.

“There's video, there's popups, there's infographics. There are many options for interaction which are part of demonstrating that you've thought about privacy and are trying to create a trust relationship with your customers.”

Ultimately the key is delivering a privacy notice that is the perfect fit for your target audience. If you are a social media platform aimed at 13 to18 year-old girls, then you need to ensure that you present the information in a language and style that is relevant for them.

Another increasingly popular option which some marketeers are behind is the layered privacy option. This entails providing privacy information to consumers in digestible chunks, so they can consume it in small parts, rather than wading through a weighty document as their only option.

It is an innovation that Amy Nixon has forthright opinions on:

“There is also a mistake in assuming that your privacy notice is the only privacy information you can provide and that it's inappropriate to have layering. You need to give very specific information in order to be absolutely clear. But for most people, if you can't explain your basic data processing in one minute, you're not doing it right. Excellent simple explanations are always going to be better than pointing to something that no one except another lawyer can understand.”

The challenge for marketers is to take the privacy notice to a new level and match, or even exceed, the expectations of consumers. In many ways privacy notices are ‘low hanging fruit’, but they can be the start of a collaboration where marketing personnel and other departments overhaul privacy strategies to ensure they are ready for 2023’s customers.

“You have to engage with your privacy team to reimagine your privacy function,” says Ben Rapp.

“It's not some silo over in legal or in tech that is responsible for looking at a narrow set of rules and making sure there’s a box ticking exercise on a website that meets some requirement.

“It's part of your organisational trust function. Once you’ve made sure what you're doing with respect to your customers, you need to tell them about it. A privacy notice expresses what you're going to do with data. Don’t see it as a long legal document that nobody reads, but as a living engagement.”

When it comes to shaping privacy notices, marketers should not leave the heavy lifting to tech and legal teams. Marketers need to play a key role in ensuring their privacy notices maintain the high standards that their messaging strategy demands.


Our Privacy Made Positive® programme helps business profit from privacy

Our Privacy Made Positive® programme builds on compliance to help organisations use privacy as a competitive advantage. Click here to find out more about our programme and our research and here for our toolkit of services.

In this blog, we referenced our latest research report (eBook) Data privacy and consumer choice and behaviours across the US. Click here to download .

To find out more about our Privacy Made Positive® programme, visit 

Complete the form below if you would be interested to learn more about our US research and be included in emails regarding research results, forthcoming webinars and other news.