Everyone knows marketing works best when it perfectly addresses the audience – and that includes respect, data ethics, safety, and security. It also depends on communication and location. Speak your customer’s language and deliver appropriate messaging where your customers are. Sounds simple. It is not.

There are many different types of potential and existing customers, all with different needs and in different locations. Ideally each one needs a different type of communication, in different areas and at different times. In the digital world, this quickly becomes overwhelmingly complex.

Digital marketing’s biggest advantage is: with a little (or bigger) effort you can measure, analyze, adapt, optimize and improve – in real time. This is working really well, and it is our daily recipe for our respect for people and clients’ success here at Kinesso.

With the fusion and aggregation of huge amounts of data in a single place, however, comes also one big challenge: privacy.

Tying together motion patterns of cellphone users in combination with face-tracing of digital out-of-home media to real world store visits and online purchases enables commercial brands to better understand the behaviors and potential needs of people, but potentially at the cost of individual privacy. The question becomes, what is ethical and digitally responsible? Our people-based approach to marketing and digital addressability at Kinesso, with the help of Acxiom, is an ethical, digitally responsible, and very successful solution.

New legal regulations around the world such as California Consumer Privacy Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) raise the standards on collecting and using data to reach and connect to people. These laws require better transparency and control for people, including different forms of permission for how their data can be used. However, making an informed decision in real life can prove challenging. Almost every website asks for permission for about 10 – 20 different marketing vendors and purposes on a daily basis. Thus, access to reliably permissioned data is becoming more complex and difficult over time. People might not understand why certain purposes will benefit them, advertisers might not communicate purposes in an easy enough way to understand, vendors or agencies might not be able to define purposes right from the beginning as relationships, requirements or strategies evolve. This could very well lead to abrupt chaos.

So how can we guarantee respect, ethics, and privacy to people but at the same time ensure smart, big data analysis to enable our clients’ success? For a long time, the answer was: You can only have one or the other. I don’t know how you feel about such an answer. Personally, I don’t like this type of answer. I am, rather, the “I want it all,” kind of person.

Luckily, smart people in blockchain and cryptography science invented a principle, which is called “zero-knowledge proof.” This proof could be slightly adjusted into a new kind of digital marketing solution, which delivers both privacy and data analysis at scale.

So how does this work?

Say that Alice and Bob are playing “Where’s Waldo?” For those who aren’t familiar, it is a puzzle book, full of different characters in everyday situations, and you have to find a character named Waldo hidden in the crowd of people. Again, sounds simple. It is not!

So, Alice and Bob are playing and Alice finds Waldo, while Bob does not. How can Alice prove to Bob that she found Waldo without revealing where exactly Waldo is hiding in the crowd?

There is more than one answer, so you might want to think about it…

One possible answer is using a photocopier to make a photocopy of the relevant book page. Alice then cuts out Waldo from the photocopy, while Bob is not looking, and then she shows Bob. This is proof that Alice knows where Waldo is hiding without revealing the true location of Waldo in the book’s page.

Now let us imagine that Bob is an advertiser, Alice is working for Kinesso, and Waldo is a consumer:

Kinesso (Alice) can prove to the advertiser (Bob/anyone else) that Kinesso (Alice) knows consumers’ (Waldo’s) true location, at any time, without revealing sensitive personal, identifiable information (PII data).

So if we understand where Waldo is hiding as the true location of a potential consumer and we establish at this location that Waldo-tailored communications by adopting zero-knowledge proof as a practice within Kinesso to combine the two essentials “Communication and Location,” we can now solve a very important challenge – protecting identity data, and enabling data analysis, activation and reporting.

While the above example is oversimplified to explain the concept of using cryptographic methods to establish control and protection of data between certain parties, the reality is much, much more complex. Such concepts need to be applied from end-to-end across all data sources, and technical vendors need to become secure and scalable.

This is one of the challenges we’re working to address daily at Kinesso and a concept that will increasingly be discussed as regulation around data usage continues to evolve globally.