Protecting Personal Data At Your Virtual Event

Virtual events provide a trove of personal data and an opportunity for third-party platforms to compromise the privacy of your event attendees. Glisser’s Vanessa Lovatt spoke to AdAge about the pitfalls planners must confront in this age of myriad digital event touch-points.

Mike Fletcher, March 15, 2022

Virtual events have become a gold mine of personal information about attendees. Not only have tech-enabled virtual events made such data easier to gather, that data is also much more seamless for marketers thanks to emerging technologies.

Tracking the actions of participants at in-person events has always been challenging but that’s not the case online. In fact, during a virtual event every attendee interaction can be recorded—with the personalised data potentially used to promote alternative events hosted on the same platform, evolve functionality or even increase the valuation of the platform owner.

“When it comes to virtual event data governance and security, yes, it’s a question of getting the basics right around security of access, content and attendee data,” Glisser’s Vanessa Lovatt tells AdAge. “But it’s also a question of ownership. Who truly owns the event and its data—you and you alone? Or also your event platform provider?”

Many event planners are unaware that they maybe agreeing to lose exclusive ownership of their attendees’ data by way of co-ownership clauses in the platform’s policies—not unlike consumers who routinely sign over the content they create to social media platforms, which then “own” that data.

Moreover, how detailed is the attendee data that you’ve given permission for your technology partner to curate and will your audience accept this level of insight as a value exchange for accessing your event content?

Most platforms say they deliver “extensive analytics,” but what precisely does that mean? The best platforms go into great detail about event attendees - tracking which sessions a participant attended, how they answered polls, the questions they asked, whether they took notes and downloaded slides, whether they liked the questions fellow attendees asked, and so much more.

“You need to get to the bottom of what information is being stored by the provider, for how long and, crucially, whether attendees are aware of the fact,” explains Lovatt. “There are swaths of virtual event tech companies that require attendees to create an account with them before they can access their desired event. This type of backdoor user growth is proving incredibly effective. Once the user is signed-up, however unwittingly, the technology provider can then harvest their data around some or all event touch-points.”

Data Protection Whitepaper

To learn more about this topic, download the 'Protecting Personal Data at your Virtual Event' whitepaper, produced by AdAge and Glisser.  

Likewise, platform partners, depending on the contract, could take ownership of your event content—meaning they own every slide from every presentation, every video, every speech, and the comments of every participant, as well as anything shared through the platform. And since they own it, they can then use it however they choose.

Each touchpoint of a virtual event has to do with data creation: registration, time of sign-in, IP logging, content viewed and so on. And as all the content and data from your event is a commodity, it should remain part of your information domain. Don’t be cavalier about giving it up to a third party.

Six questions around data ownership to ask your prospective platform partner:

1) Who owns the attendee data? Does that match the commitments that you make to your attendees? In the case of co-ownership of data and content, will your attendees accept your decision to choose this option?

2) What kind of support does the platform provide? Should I need to reach out for support, will there be a machine or chatbot or an actual human being on the line?

3) How can I use analytics during the virtual event to help guide the direction of its content? Using real-time engagement tools and audience-activity trends to determine content topics can help prioritize one piece of content over another when mapping out the event agenda.

4) How securely does your event platform integrate with other martech tools you employ? What data-governance considerations should there be with platform integration?

5) How will the tech platform be branded during your virtual event? Does it threaten to overshadow the presence of your own brand?

6) Will your platform partner be able to market to your attendees after your event?

This is an edited version of a whitepaper produced by AdAge and Glisser. To read the full-length paper, download 'Protecting Personal Data at your Virtual Event'. 

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