I’m about to out myself. Not that way. Nope, I’m outing myself as a reader of Fortune magazine (and the Financial Times and other media of the ilk).
Big deal, you respond, and rightfully so. Because if you’re a recurring reader of this blog you know that the posts here rarely have much to do with their opening salvos. It’s a trick I learned from watching The Simpsons.
The issue of Fortune in which I most recently indulged — chosen for its cover story about Oprah Winfrey’s incipient cable network — is relevant to marketing and social media thoughts that have do-se-do’d around my head for a few months. And it wasn’t the Oprah piece that got most of the brain cells rubbing together. It was a mere trifle on the last page titled “Big Brother Bot” by Stanley Bing.
In his slim 500-word-or-so piece he takes on our love-hate yet inevitable relationship with online-based data mining and profiling. It’s a cleverly written fable in which the bots take on physical, home-invading qualities. Even when the bots are helpful, their sheer nosiness is disturbing.
His observations dovetailed with some of mine about the difference between data security and data privacy. And by data I mean personal information and preferences. I suspect that people are confusing the two, and that confusion can have some unexpected implications. First, a rough definition of the two concepts:
- Data security is truly about how shielded your private financial, health and other essential information is from nefarious exploitation. Despite recurring breeches of security, by and large your most sensitive information is being protected by businesses with which you transact. Believe it when your bank or Amazon.com or health care provider say they are protecting that data from malfeasance. However…
- Data privacy is another matter, and those same companies think about your data differently than you probably do (if you think about it at all). Much of that data is not private at all. It is, in fact, a precious asset to those companies that is being mined, amalgamated, traded and sold (outright or fractionally) within these companies and/or to others. Your likes and dislikes, history, patterns and demographic/psychographic profile are all valuable commodities. Thus, the ability of bots or what-have-yous to target you with further offers and inducements…and invasions of your sense of privacy. Unwanted help that is sometimes downright helpful, however queasy that bot’s knowledge of you might feel.
Quite frankly, there’s little you can do about the privacy of your data. You’ve signed that privacy away in the terms of service agreements you willingly checked when you use a web-based service or simply enter into an economic relationship with a provider of goods or services. You don’t really read them, do you? And even if you did I can’t see any individual getting into a line item negotiation about the provisions. You either take the agreement whole or take a hike.
Sorry to say that I don’t have the definitive list of 5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PROTECT YOUR DATA PRIVACY (and the inevitably clichéd tweets that would promote them). There are probably a few things you can do to impede the rate of erosion of privacy. But short of going off the grid, you’re stuck living in a world that knows you a little better than you might have intended.
However, I can point to 5 TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS TO WATCH if you find this topic troubling, interesting and/or ripe for exploitation:
- Google is rumbling once again about bringing social to search. If they ever get it right, it will be a game-changer. As in, no detail of your life will be too small to track and aggregate for marketing use (or worse).
- Platforms like FourSquare and their brethren are facing growing alarm over personal safety issues and will have to overcome significant reticence to become widely adopted and used by individuals.
- Facebook, and now many of its gaming partners, have been shown again and again to provide a data-miner’s fantasyland. Read about some alarming issues with its new Groups feature and its recent gaming breach at The Huffington Post: “Facebook Groups Can Jeopardize Privacy.”
- Online ad curation tools like AdKeeper could be Trojan horses into consumers’ lives if enough brands choose to deploy the service.
- Mobile wars, replete with a race to dominate apps, are in the offing as Android expands, Windows 7 for mobile debuts and Apple expands not only to additional portable devices but also to Verizon.
Postscript: For the avid data miner, this post has revealed several dozen data points about me as a consumer. Some on purpose and some as an artifact of simply writing this for use online. I’d be curious to see what marketing, political and other offers this would generate. Just pondering, though. On second thought, I’d rather not generate any to be honest. But the bots already knew that, didn’t they.