Now that SaaS companies with API access to social media platforms are able to give brands incredibly detailed data reporting on customer behavior metrics like brand awareness, click-throughs, sales, social listening and more, we’re starting to see the very real results that influencer marketing can bring.

It’s no secret that accurate and thorough data collection and analysis practices are essential to online marketing success. Without collecting and analyzing data, we wouldn’t be able to deliver a positive user experience, connecting viewers with content that’s most relevant to their likes and needs, and in turn, helping brands increase the effectiveness of their campaigns.

But the way in which that all-important data is collected is at the center of an industry-wide debate. The ethical question of balancing data collection with user privacy is one that industry leaders will be discussing for years to come.

Data itself isn’t the enemy, unethical data collection is.

So what can users do to protect their privacy? And how can brands handle data collection and analysis responsibly without compromising the efficacy of their campaigns?

The Ethical Importance of API Approval

Perhaps the most basic ethical decision a company can make is choosing to invest in a data collection method that includes API approval from all major platforms. Tagger, along with a few other influencer marketing platforms, gains ethical access to users’ social media data through applying for, and being granted, API approval.

Platforms that scrape unapproved data from social platforms present a multitude of problems. First, this practice is simply unethical, as it means an entity is “scraping” unapproved data off of social platforms without asking for permission. The key word there is: “unapproved”. If a user has not approved the sharing of their personal data, then in plain terms, that data is being stolen and used for profit.

Another negative aspect of scraping data is that the results simply aren’t accurate. If brands are making decisions on where to spend their marketing dollars, they should be doing so with accurate information for the best possible ROI. Using scraped data to plan a campaign is like erecting a house in a sandpit; it’s just wasting money on building something with no foundation.

How Users Can Protect Themselves

Users should be most concerned about their data privacy when they use their social accounts to log in to third-party apps or websites. The app and or website should be very clear what data they have access to and how they are using that data to benefit the user.

One way to protect your data is to regularly check what third-party platforms or apps have access to your social media profile. Delete any apps that you don’t recognize to ensure your data isn’t being shared without your approval.

Protecting Data After Harvesting

Once a brand, platform, or company has access to user information, they have a moral responsibility to protect that data. All brands should make it a point to ensure they implement the best-in-class data security and protection protocol possible.

The goal of these measures is to ensure the safety of user data is never compromised. Taking extra steps to protect user data also builds all-important consumer trust in this age of digital marketing.

The bottom line: social media and influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere. With the increase in spending in the industry, brands, platforms, and companies have to be more diligent than ever to make sure the data they’re collecting is correct and harvested in an ethical manner.

As long as clear boundaries are drawn between brands, influencers, and their audiences, data can be utilized without taking advantage of people’s privacy.