Data Governance overview

Last update: 2023-05-29
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One of the core capabilities of Adobe Experience Platform is to bring data from multiple enterprise systems together to better allow marketers to identify, understand, and engage customers. This data may be subject to usage restrictions defined by your organization or by legal regulations. It is therefore important to ensure that your data operations within Platform are compliant with data usage policies.

Adobe Experience Platform Data Governance allows you to manage customer data and ensure compliance with regulations, restrictions, and policies applicable to data use. It plays a key role within Experience Platform at various levels, including cataloging, data lineage, data usage labeling, data usage policies, and controlling usage of data for marketing actions.


In Experience Platform, data governance is only concerned with how data is used or activated, regardless of the user performing the action. For information on how to control access to specific data fields for certain Platform users within your organization, see the documentation on attribute-based access control instead.

Data governance roles

As a concept, data governance is neither automatic, nor does it occur in a vacuum. What began as a role for one individual, typically recognized as a data steward, has grown considerably as the data governance ecosystem has expanded. Today, data governance requires continual management and monitoring in order to be successful and relies on data stewards having tools with which data can be properly labeled, usage policies can be created, and compliance with those policies can be enforced.

While data governance should be the responsibility of every individual in the organization, here are some of the essential roles within the data governance cycle:

Data Governance Roles

Data steward

Data stewards are the heart of data governance. This role is responsible for interpreting regulations, contractual restrictions, and policies, and applying them directly to the data. Informed by their understanding of these regulations, restrictions, and policies, the role of a data steward includes:

  • Reviewing data, datasets, and data samples to apply and manage metadata usage labeling.
  • Creating data policies and applying them to datasets and fields.
  • Communicating data policies to the organization.


Marketers are the end point of data governance. They request data from the data governance infrastructure created by data stewards, scientists, and engineers. Marketers encompass a number of different specialties under the marketing umbrella, including the following:

  • Marketing Analysts request data to enable understanding of customers, both as individuals and in groups (also known as segments).
  • Marketing Specialists and Experience Designers use data to design new customer experiences.

Data Governance framework

The Data Governance framework simplifies and streamlines the process of categorizing data and creating data usage policies. Once data labels have been applied and data usage policies are in place, marketing actions can be evaluated to ensure the correct use of data.

There are three key elements to the Data Governance framework: Labels, Policies, and Enforcement.

  1. Labels: Classify data that reflects privacy-related considerations and contractual conditions to be compliant with regulations and organization policies.
  2. Policies: Describe what kind(s) of marketing actions are allowed or not allowed to be taken on specific data.
  3. Enforcement: Uses the policy framework to advise and enforce policies across different data access patterns.

Data usage labels

Data Governance enables data stewards to apply usage labels at the schema field level and dataset level to categorize data according to the type of policies that apply.

The Data Governance framework includes predefined data usage labels that can be used to categorize data in three ways:

Data Usage Label Categories

  • Contract “C” Data Labels: Label and categorize data that has contractual obligations or is related to customer data governance policies.
  • Identity “I” Data Labels: Label and categorize data that can identify or contact a specific person.
  • Sensitive “S” Data Labels: Label and categorize data related to sensitive data such as geographic data.

See the guide on supported data usage labels for a complete list of available labels, as well as definitions for each label type.

Labels can be applied at any time, providing flexibility in how you choose to govern data. Best practice encourages labeling data as soon as it is ingested into Experience Platform, or as soon as data becomes available in Platform.

See the overview on data usage labels for more information.

Data usage policies

In order for data usage labels to effectively support data compliance, data usage policies must be implemented. Data usage policies are rules that describe the kinds of marketing actions that you are allowed to, or restricted from, performing on data within Experience Platform.

An example of a marketing action might be the desire to export a dataset to a third-party service. If there is a policy in place declaring that Personally Identifiable Information (PII) cannot be exported, and an “I” label (identity data) has been applied to the field level or dataset, Policy Service prevents any action that would export this dataset to a third-party destination. Should one of these action attempts occur, Policy Service sends a message telling you that a data usage policy has been violated.

There are two types of policies available:

  • Data governance policy: Restrict data activation based on the marketing action being performed and the data usage labels carried by the data in question.
  • Consent policy: Filter the profiles that can be activated to destinations based on your customers’ consent or preferences.

Once data usage labels have been applied, data stewards can create policies using the Policy Service API or the Experience Platform user interface. For more information on data usage policies and marketing actions, see the policies overview.


All data usage policies (including core policies provided by Adobe) are disabled by default. In order for an individual policy to be considered for enforcement, you must manually enable that policy.

Next steps

This document provided a high-level introduction to Data Governance and theData Governance framework. You can now continue to the data usage labels user guide and start adding usage labels to your experience data.


The following section provides additional information regarding Data Governance.

Data Governance terminology

The following table outlines key terms related to Data Governance and theData Governance framework.

Term Definition
Contract labels Contract “C” labels are used to categorize data that has contractual obligations or is related to your organization’s data governance policies.
Cross-site data Cross-site data is the combination of data from several sites, including a combination of on-site data and off-site data or a combination of data from several off-site sources.
Data governance Data governance encompasses the strategies and technologies used to ensure data is in compliance with regulations and corporate policies with respect to data usage.
Data steward The data steward is the person responsible for the management, oversight, and enforcement of an organization’s data assets. A data steward also ensures data governance policies are safeguarded and maintained to be compliant with government regulations and organization policies.
Data usage labels Data usage labels provide users the ability to categorize data that reflects privacy-related considerations and contractual conditions to be compliant with regulations and corporate policies.
Dataset labels Labels can be added to a schema. All fields within a dataset inherit the schema’s labels.
Field labels Field labels are data governance labels that are either inherited from a schema or applied directly to a field. Data governance labels applied to a field are not inherited up to the schema level.
Geofence A geofence is a virtual geographic boundary, defined by GPS or RFID technology, that enables software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area.
Identity labels Identity “I” labels are used to categorize data that can identify or contact a specific person.
Interest-based targeting Interest-based targeting, also known as personalization, occurs if the following three conditions are met: data collected on-site is, used to make inferences about a users’ interest, is used in another context, such as on another site or app (off-site) and is used to select which content or ads are served based on those inferences.
Marketing action A marketing action, in the context of the data governance framework, is an action that an Experience Platform data consumer takes, for which there is a need to check for violations of data usage policies
Policy In the data governance framework, a policy is a rule that describes what kind of marketing actions are allowed or not allowed to be taken on specific data.
Schema Labels Manage the labels for data governance, consent, and access control at the schema level. This propogates the labels to every dataset that uses that schema.
Sensitive Labels Sensitive “S” labels are used to categorize data that you, and your organization, consider sensitive.

Additional resources

The following video is intended to support your understanding of the Data Governance framework.


In this video, I’ll give you an overview of the governance features in Adobe Experience Platform. Let’s first look at the data governance challenges facing enterprises today. On one hand, you want to provide personalized customer experiences by leveraging customer data, data science, analytics, segmentation and activation. On the other hand, you also want to ensure that all data usage complies with policies based on legal, contractual and privacy obligations. Complying with such policies becomes hard when data usage is siloed from data stewardship. The governance features on Adobe Experience Platform allows you to address these challenges and break down such enterprise silos. Adobe Experience Platform provides an easily extensible governance framework that is deeply embedded in data usage workflows. We call this the data usage and labeling enforcement framework, or DUEL, and it provides features for you to take complete control over governing your data, from the point it’s collected at data sources to when it’s syndicated to destinations outside platform. The framework is built on three key aspects, labels, policies, and enforcement. First, you can classify data using governance labels. Second, you can alter governance policies to define usage restrictions. Third, policies can be enforced when the data is used. With these three pillars, you can be assured that all data usage is in compliance and does not violate any policies.

Now let’s take a look at each of these aspects, starting with data classification using labels.

In an increasingly privacy conscious landscape, you want to ensure that your data is appropriately tagged and classified to reflect corporate policies, contractual obligations, compliance requirements and regional regulations. Governance labels enable you to do this and are critical to differentiating known and unknown data about your customers. Once labeled, the classifications are propagated as data flows through the system. Labels are also building blocks to other usage policies and enable services to identify and restrict data usage. Different types of governance labels are offered in Adobe Experience Platform to capture a rich and complex set of restrictions you want to apply on the data. Three categories of labels are provided out of the box. Contract labels can be used to categorize data, indicating contractual obligations. For example, you can use C6 Contract Label on data that is contractually restricted from use an onsite targeting. Identity labels can be used to categorize data that can be used to identify or contact a specific person. For example, you can use I1 identity label on data from your CRM system that directly identifies an individual, like the email address or phone number. Sensitive labels can be used to categorize sensitive data like geolocation. Additionally, you can also create custom labels based on your business needs.

Data classification is designed to be a convenient experience that minimizes repetitive tasks. You can apply the governance labels at the source level on datasets. Granularity to apply labels at the dataset field level is also provided. This means that when you want to use the data, restrictions relevant for individual fields can be honored while fields without restrictions can continue to be used. Any segments or profiles that are created from source datasets will automatically inherited the labels. Not only does this reduce the chance of making mistakes, but any updated restrictions are propagated and reflected in data assets downstream in real-time.

Now that we’ve covered data classification, let’s look at policy management, the second aspect of the governance framework. Adobe Experience Platform provides data stewards with the ability to define data usage policies based on their corporate, legal and privacy guidelines. A governance policy describes what kinds of data usage actions are not allowed based on the classifications applicable on data. Two features are provided that act as building blocks to define a governance policy, governance labels and marketing actions. Let’s look at an example. You may want to define a policy that states, directly identifiable data should not be used for onsite targeting. To enable this, you can use a marketing action identifying onsite advertising and the governance label I1 to create a policy rule.

The policy engine offers flexibility to use a Boolean expression of labels when altering the rule. This can be a combination of one or more Boolean and/or expressions involving labels. You can define your own marketing actions and also enable or disable policies to have complete control over policy definitions. Governance policies come in two flavors. Core policies are provided out of the box, and use predefined labels and marketing actions in their definition. These are defined in coordination with privacy and legal guidelines, and help you get started with common restrictions to be applied for customer experience use cases. You can see some of the core policies on the right side. For example, a policy to restrict email targeting is based off label C4 and C5, and prevents data with that classification from use for email targeting. Custom policies provide flexibility to define your own restrictions using the policy engine tailored to your specific use cases.

The third aspect of the governance framework is policy enforcement. Once policies are defined and enabled, applications using data can enforce these policies at the point where data is used for specific marketing actions. The applications should go through the following steps to enable governance enforcement. First, all the classifications for data requested for usage needs to be retrieved. Next, all the marketing actions for which data is requested for is retrieved. Once the labels and actions are retrieved, any violations against active governance policies can be checked, if any policies are violated, data usage can be controlled to honor the policies. Policy enforcement is built into Adobe Experience Platform with both simplicity and extensibility as key considerations. All four steps to enable enforcement can be performed using governance APIs. This means that any custom applications built on top of Platform can restrict data usage, and do it in a way that allows those applications to define the enforcement experience to provide to their users. Platform services and applications will provide an enforcement experience out of the box. This automates the steps for enforcement under the hood and is embedded in the usage flow of the applications. Platform’s approach to governance is not just about restricting usage, but also to help you make informed choices on what you can do to mitigate the violation and continue delivering customer experiences. Whenever a policy violation happens, enough context is provided about why this happened. This includes a list of violated policies, as well as a comprehensive lineage analysis. By analyzing this lineage, you can identify how the activation you are trying to perform caused a policy violation. Based on this analysis, you can decide on the course of action and subsequently remediate violations by making appropriate updates to data relationships. That’s an overview of the governance features in Adobe Experience Platform.

The following video provides guidance on how to apply data usage labels to your schemas and datasets in Experience Platform.


In this video, we’ll go over the concepts of identity and identity graphs in Adobe Experience Platform. A big challenge in making great customer experiences is making them seamless across channels and devices. The average customer may have over a dozen touch points with your brand before a conversion even takes place. They may browse your website, open your mobile app, visit your brick and mortar store, and so on. Understanding where a single customer is in their journey is complicated as each touch point often uses its own unique identity. Furthermore, data associated with these identities gets siloed in enterprise systems, such as CRM, ERP, DMP, CMS, and marketing automation. These disconnected identities are a barrier to achieving a holistic view of the customer in order to serve the next best experience. Active management of identities via linking, resolving, governing, and actioning is time-consuming, process-heavy, and difficult. Fortunately, Experience Platform provides a rich set of identity resolution capabilities which are built from the ground up to handle these tasks. For each customer that interacts with your brand, Platform can link their disconnected identities into a versatile identity graph creating a single, holistic representation of each individual person. Experience Platform has three key identity resolution capabilities, identity collection, identity graphs, and the Identity Service API. Identity Collection happens whenever you ingest data into Experience Platform, either through batch ingestion, streaming ingestion, or a source connection. All data that is ingested into Platform must conform to a predefined experience data model schema. When developing your data model and defining your schemas, any fields that contain identity information should be marked as identity fields. This is how Platform is able to recognize identity information whenever new data is ingested under these schemas. The second major capability is the Identity Graph. Identity Graphs are maps of relationships between individual identities, and Identity Graph for a single individual can contain their email address, CRM IDs, device IDs, and more. While the contents of each individual Identity Graph will naturally vary between customers, the structure of how these identities relate to one another remains consistent. Experience Platform maintains a complete representation of the identity relationships that have been built based on your data. This representation is referred to as the Private Graph, and is visible only to your organization. The third major capability is the Identity Service API. Experience Platform’s identity capabilities are exposed through Adobe I.O., so developers can use the same API endpoints as the Experience Platform user interface. Using the Identity Service API, you can programmatically interact with your Platform Identity Graphs from your experience application. Let’s talk more about Identity Graphs. An Identity Graph is constructed by discovering relationships between identities among your customer experience data using deterministic algorithms. The deterministic algorithms establish relationships between identities based on your own observations. For example, when a visitor lands on your website, they’re assigned an anonymous visitor ID. If they log in using their account ID, that account ID can now be deterministically linked to the anonymous one. Identity Graphs are a key piece for creating a merged view of a customer in real-time customer profile. See the profile documentation to learn how to combine Identity Graphs and Merge Rules to stitch together a complete representation of each individual customer. Identity Graphs also extend Adobe’s commitment to privacy. Adobe, as a data processor, has launched Experience Platform services that allow you to label your data based on data usage policies and enforce those policies as potentially sensitive identity information moves through the system. See the documentation on Adobe Experience Platform data governance for more information. You’ve now been introduced to the major capabilities provided by Identity Service. To learn more, please review the official Identity Service documentation. Thanks for listening, and good luck building out your own Identity Graphs to power your personalization capabilities.

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