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Dear Facebook, Twitter, Etc: Do Not Track!

Category: Andy Marken's blog Published on Saturday, 22 December 2012

People Want it All – Convenience and Privacy

Source -
“The Fugitive,” Warner Bros.
“What I want from each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area.”Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard, “The Fugitive,” Warner Bros., 1993

Our kids love the fact that they have a couple of thousand Likes and Followers.

Our daughter is excited when she receives coupons and exclusive offers (especially when she’s in the store) and when concert hints pop up on her iPhone.

But if you tell her that companies and retailers are tracking her search, site visits and other activities, she’s furious.

I don’t have the nerve to tell her that I occasionally check on her digital footprint because I’m concerned.

Probably because if I did I’d be like Newman, “It's terrible, I'm gonna have permanent hearing damage.”

Parents Care
Fortunately, a recent Pew Research Center report reinforced the fact that as parents we aren’t abnormal or paranoid. It’s just a parent thing:
- 81% of parents of online teens say they are concerned about how much information advertisers can learn about their child’s online behavior, with some 46% being very concerned.
- 72% of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child interacts online with people they do not know, with some 53% of parents being very concerned.
- 69% of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child manages his or her reputation online, with some 49% being very concerned.
- 59% of the parents of teen users of social networking sites (SNS) have talked with their child because they were concerned about something posted to their profile or account. (That translates to 46% of parents of all online teens.)
- 50% of parents of online teens (not just the teens who use SNS) have used parental controls or other means of blocking, filtering or monitoring their child’s online activities … a number that has remained almost unchanged since last year.
- 42% of parents of online teens have searched for their child’s name online to see what information is available about him or her.

Dumb and Dangerous – It’s real easy for adults to do dumb things on the Web; but for youngsters, it’s even easier because they’ve never known anything but the always-on world. And if parents can be tricked by devious people on the web, it’s probably easy for nasty folks to entice, entrap kids.

The Pew study also found that a lot of parents have become more social media savvy because that’s where the kids spend a lot of their time:
- 66% of all parents who have a child between the ages of 12-17, say they use a social networking site, up from 58% in 2011.
- There is great variation according to the parent’s age; 82% of parents under age 40 say they use SNS, while only 61% of parents over age 40 use the sites.

We don’t see anything really wrong with parental tracking and maybe, just maybe, tracking and trying to properly interact with consumers is okay; but it’s too easy to step over the line today.

Consumers are concerned about the disintegration of privacy and most seem to agree that their personal information and behavior are pretty transparent; but there isn’t the same level of transparency from companies.

As Deputy Marshall Gerard said, “Let that be a lesson to you, boys and girls. Don't ever argue with the big dog, because the big dog is always right.”

But the privacy concern will take a backseat when there are advantages to the consumer in sharing that information, according to a recent McCann Truth Central survey.

Sure, I’ll Share –
Folks around the globe are more than willing to share their personal information as long as there’s something in it for them. The more the benefits, the more information they’ll share.

In fact, seven out of 10 of the people asked said they were willing to share their personal information when it meant they had access to promotions and discounts.

Convenience over Privacy

While the financial consideration was strong – the wife loves to tell us how much she saved us – the study also found that they would share personal information if it meant it made their shopping, buying more convenient.

The combination was a key to the wife signing up for a program at our grocery store and at Lowe’s where they “volunteered” to keep track of our purchases in a database so they could give us new buying and upgrade hints for the home.

Guess that makes us part of the 37 percent who indicated they’d provide the information to reduce the hassle of trying to find old purchase receipts.

O.K., what this really means is that all of that Big Data that is being accumulated with every click is difficult to use properly and too tempting for businesses and governments to use improperly.

Developing an accurate picture of consumer behavior is complex and the biggest challenge companies face today because the data accumulated is so overwhelming and so diverse.

Early last year, Capgemini surveyed companies and not unsurprisingly, two-thirds said they were data driven (not customer driven).

Of course, they all knew there were rich customer data mines to be tapped; but according to a McKinsey study, they just couldn’t figure out how to do it.

Big Data, Big Answers – All of the information search engine and social media sites capture from people’s searching, roaming and sharing produces a better and better picture of the individual and his/her wants, needs and thoughts. The challenge in capturing all of this rich Big Data is being able to quickly, easily and effectively analyze and use the right data to attract just the right customers.

It’s not that the companies aren’t collecting the data because according to IDC, they can’t build out data storage facilities fast enough. Figuring out how to analyze and use all of that information is still a work in progress.

Don’t feel sorry for the poor, overwhelmed marketing folks though because there’s always an old crutch they can use … advertising. Granted, its nothing like the Mad Men advertising where you’d buy ad space based on some demographics and then “spray and pray.”

Automated Ad Placement

Nope, the systems the ad placement folks use are more sophisticated.

Now you can specify you want a soccer fan that makes $250k a year, a mother in Chicago who’s looking for a new convertible and BAM!!, they instantly get an ad tailored to them on their computer, tablet, smartphone.

Or, as Poole profiled them, “Somebody that makes more money than you.”

No one has to buy the marketing person a martini; it just happens in milliseconds again and again around the country, around the globe.

And because such rich data is continually accumulated, the ad targeting just gets better, more refined and the value of reaching just the right individual becomes more valuable.

Does it make you feel more important?

Don’t let it go to your head; and fer gawd sake, don’t Tweet your Followers because they may become valuable targets just by association. Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth because powerful algorithms are sizing you up based on a wide range of criteria -- what you search, sites you visit, ads you click, social media profile and more.

In the blink of an eye, you’re shown an ad that was auctioned off to the highest bidder.

So right now, you’re probably feel a little used/abused; so why don’t you just opt out … you know, DNT (do not track).

Lots of luck because while governments push DNT legislation, there are agencies that also find that information very useful.

As Deputy Marshall Gerard said, “You know we're always fascinated when we find leg irons with no legs in them. “

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