Endlessly Trackable: Convenience at the price of privacy?

We exchange privacy for products and services all the time, sometimes without even knowing it.

By Erik Magnuson


Part of a monthly discussion series led by the experts on our planning team.

Recently, I led a lively discussion with members from our data, creative, planning, technology and account teams on the implications of the endless data-collection from all sorts of devices (from ovens to phones). Our main focus was Samsung’s SmartTVs, which are voice-operated but reportedly listening to you all the time and gathering lots of very intimate data.

Samsung’s privacy policy states: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”

Via Daily Beast

When is it a fair value exchange? I’ve covered this question before: we’re willing to allow companies to collect oodles of our data as long as we’re getting something out of it. This is called ‘fair value exchange.’ All brands must consider the value exchange their products and services offer to customers. During our discussion we had near total agreement that this voice recognition technology is not offering a fair value exchange. The ability to talk to your TV in exchange for this kind of intrusive data mining? No thanks. But the value exchange gets even worse. Apparently the company wasn’t even encrypting the data before sending it to these mysterious “third parties.” If companies are going to be gathering such sensitive and personal information, they damn well better keep it safe!

Upside? Information finds you & ads are never mis-targeted? We decided that as marketers we must do a better job of telling the upside of this data collection story. Examples like Cortana and its contextual awareness offer a better value exchange. Cortana knows your schedule, your whereabouts and alerts you when you need to leave by monitoring traffic.

“There will be a reckoning.” We agreed that a data breach or whistleblower (ala Edward Snowden) is inevitable, making data collection stories much more personal and raising the profile of the data collection industry as a whole. While we couldn’t predict exactly what this revelation will be, we generally agreed that it is a matter of when (not if) it will happen.

Stress of living in this world: We discussed the new stresses of living in a world where you know everything you say, text, search or do is trackable in some way. A story was told that involved a nine-year-old demanding text messages be deleted after they were sent so there would be no digital trail. While on the other hand, some of us argued that being able to shout to no one in particular that getting some “discounted Disneyland tickets sure would be nice” wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing — of course that is if they actually showed up.

Marketers must be more honest: We had near universal agreement that the marketing industry must be more transparent in the future. Brands have to balance legitimate privacy concerns with creating innovations that actually make life better for their customers. So let’s be honest with our customers about the value exchange we are offering them. We all want to know what we are signing up for when we exchange our personal data for the many wonders of the internet century.

As the data collection industry continues to evolve, stay tuned for more POVs from Wunderman Seattle’s data team on this fast changing topic. Better yet, tweet us back with your perspective on this brave new frontier of marketing.

Originally published at blog.wundermanseattle.com on April 1, 2015.