Striking the balance between personalization and user privacy

Uncover the ethical challenges in hyper-personalization, navigating data privacy concerns and algorithmic biases.

Ashok Pandey
New Update
Striking the balance between personalization and user privacy

Uncover the ethical challenges in hyper-personalization, navigating data privacy concerns and algorithmic biases. Understand the techniques—differential privacy, synthetic data generation, and bias-detection algorithms—employed to enhance ad relevance responsibly.


In the world of AI-driven advertising, personalization has evolved into hyper-personalization. This shift, driven by rapid advancements in AI tools and technology, has raised ethical concerns about data privacy. Krishnakumar highlights the emergence of laws like DPDP, GDPR, and CCPA, emphasizing the need for stringent controls and ethical considerations.

Techniques and Algorithms for Enhanced Ad Relevance

Personalization is not new anymore; it’s been the norm for over a decade now. With the rapid advancements in tools, technology and process in AI and the rush to differentiate and monetize all the data that organizations have and are collecting, personalization has evolved into Hyper-personalization over time. This, for the right reasons, has led to the rise in ethical concerns regarding data privacy in AI marketing. For instance—look at the recent high profile data breaches and other privacy scandals. Scores of laws that have come to reality—DPDP, GDPR, CCPA, etc., are helping in setting the base expectation around data privacy and opening up opportunities to set up higher levels of controls that organizations see as differentiators, eg., browser third party cookie deprecation, Apple IDFA deprecation, edge computing, browser sandboxing, etc.,


Data privacy is no longer limited to ‘invasion of user privacy’, it now encapsulates data protection concerns as well as algorithmic bias concerns.

Ethical consideration in AI’ is crucial to prevent technology from being misused. It’s not just a moral imperative but also a practical necessity in a world where the misuse of technology can have far-reaching consequences. It’s about developing principles and guidelines for the responsible development and implementation of AI. Some of the ways could be:

  1. Transparency—Transparency is the cornerstone of a balanced approach to privacy and personalization, however, the scope of transparency has broadened over the years. Gone are the days when transparency used to refer to clear and customizable opt-in policies and communicating to consumers how their data is being collected and used. Today, it’s about making sure our AI systems or algorithms are transparent, understandable, and explainable.
  2. Fairness—Organizations are compelled to create and employ AI without any bias that might result in any form of discrimination. This principle prevents autonomous decision-making from causing prejudice.
  3. Customer Identity Anonymization—Using techniques such as data masking or pseudonymization. This ensures that even if a data breach occurs, the exposed data cannot be traced back to individual consumers, thereby minimizing harm.
  4. Data Minimization—The practice of only collecting data that is strictly necessary for the intended purpose. By focusing on essential data points, you reduce the risk of privacy invasion and potential data breaches.

Ensuring Transparency in AI-Driven Advertising

  1. Differential Privacy—It’s the future of privacy protection. Rather than an algorithm itself, differential privacy is a set of cryptographic properties that can be applied to AI algorithms. In practice, that means the data owner purposely adds noise or randomness into a data set so that it’s simultaneously possible to learn something about a population from the data without identifying any of the individuals included in the group.

Many of the proposals within Google’s Privacy sandbox are based on a differential privacy framework. All the big tech companies such as Apple, Uber, Facebook use this technique for a variety of use cases to ensure data privacy. We are one of the early adopters of this tech in the ad-tech ecosystem, using it to generate contextual targeting recommendations for our advertisers.

  • Synthetic Data Generation—It refers to artificial data that’s generated by AI to either supplement or replace real world data.

How does it help with data privacy or ethical use of AI? - Synthetic data can enable brands to anonymize personal information from real individuals, thereby ensuring the privacy and security of that information. Brands can supplement existing and demographically skewed real data sets with synthetic data to create a more even and unbiased distribution. By generating counterfactuals, synthetic data can help identify and correct hidden biases in AI algorithms.

That said, brands should take care to use synthetic data that is diverse and representative of their target audience, and constantly monitor and evaluate the results of any ad campaigns utilizing synthetic data. Use of synthetic data by marketers requires ‘responsible’ execution—primarily around careful planning and oversight.

  • Algorithms specialized in model bias detection and model explainability—All major cloud providers today (Amazon, Google, Microsoft) offer capabilities specialized in bias detection and explainability throughout the AI lifecycle—during data preparation to during model training to after model deployment. Adhering to ethical AI practices can be greatly supported by tech investments in such privacy focused platforms and techniques.

Three Pillars: People, Process, and Technology

To secure safe and rapid AI-powered growth, organizations today must prioritize ethical and responsible AI practices. The absence of clear ethical guidelines leaves companies exposed to issues related to privacy and confidentiality. Our responsibility extends to safeguarding the data originating from our customers, a fundamental aspect of maintaining trust. This demands not just optimizing internal processes, but also interventions across all aspects of people, process and technology.

Striking the balance between personalization and user privacy1

Striking the balance between personalization and user privacy1


  1. Governance Framework—Having a clear governance structure in place around possible use cases, AI development, deployment and monitoring will provide the base set of checks and balances
  2. Ensure transparency—Be open about your data collection methods as well as data consumption ways.
  3. Be accountable—It is necessary that there is a responsible address in case of any harm or damage resulting from an AI framework’s actions. Meaning that accountability and model explainability are inseparable aspects of AI ethics principles.
  4. Guarantee data security—Setting up robust data protection practices to safeguard user data; safe-guarding internal assets (data and AI systems) from external threats; conduct regular security audits andreviews.
  5. Advocate for new privacy and compliance focused regulations to govern AI led advertising.

Data & technology:

  1. Employing data encryption techniques—makes it harder for unwanted actors to access protected data.
  2. Tackling algorithmic bias and discrimination using sophisticated andbleeding edge AI technologies and platforms such as—differential privacy, use of AI algorithms specialized at detecting bias, synthetic data generation etc.
  3. Train your AI systems with diverse data for it to make unbiased decisions.
  4. Emphasizing more on advanced contextual based techniques over identifier-basedtechniques.
  5. Widespread adoption of data cleanroom technologies leads to having a logically sound privacy first data storage and retrieval system in place.


  1. Assemble a diverse team across the spectrum—data scientists, engineers, compliance experts and ethicists to be able to see the problem through different lenses.
  2. Continuous education of our people is a must for them to understand the potential harm and preventive actions.
  3. Seeking external help through advisory services to make sure that institutionalization does not lead to a clouded view.

Realization that AI transparency is a boon and not a bane will act as a competitive advantage for organizations as it helps build trust with customers, stakeholders, and regulators. Balancing personalization and privacy may seem like a daunting task, but it's entirely achievable with the right strategies in place as it's not just about AI, but it's about AI done right.

Krishnakumar Govindarajan Chief Technology Officer MiQ

Krishnakumar Govindarajan Chief Technology Officer MiQ

Krishnakumar Govindarajan, Chief Technology Officer, MiQ