I think we all know that Big Brother is watching. Putting aside what the government may or may not be doing (no politics here!), most people are aware that every move of their digital lives is cataloged, analyzed, and might be sold to someone. The Pew folks released a study about how we (Americans) feel about that. In Pew’s words:
While many Americans are willing to share personal information in exchange for tangible benefits, they are often cautious about disclosing their information and frequently unhappy about what happens to that information once companies have collected it… Many people expressed concerns about the safety and security of their personal data in light of numerous high-profile data breaches. They also regularly expressed anger about the barrage of unsolicited emails, phone calls, customized ads or other contacts that inevitably arises when they elect to share some information about themselves.
Let’s drill down a bit. The phrase “context-specific and contingent” is a good one to guide us as we think about how to set up a mutually beneficial relationship with the consumer. First, what benefit is the visitor deriving from giving me their information? Is it content? If so, is that content so unique and of such high-quality that they feel it’s an equal exchange or is it just commodity content, something reprinted from some other source? That contextual decision isn’t yours, by the way: it’s the consumer’s.
Second, what happens to that data after the consumer surrenders it? Do consumers feel you are a trustworthy repository for their information or are you selling it to anyone regardless of what that third party’s intentions are? The consumer’s initial value exchange with you might be fine, but the subsequent actions by someone else may render that satisfaction null and void. Even if you’re retaining the data, are you doing “creepy” things with it such as constantly remarketing to the consumer so they feel as if they have a stalker in their lives?
While people are used to the notion that privacy is a disappearing concept (for better or for worse), that fact doesn’t mean that they don’t care. As Pew found, they do care. I think there is always room for a company to gain an advantage by being transparent and respectful about how they are using the data consumers share with them. You?