Internet Data as Personal Property

So where do we marketers stand on Internet Privacy?

On the one hand, I suppose marketers should applaud all the digital fingerprint technology that allows perfect strangers to know every move we make on our computers, phones and TVs.  Because when we know that, we can target prospects with precise messages that are more likely to make a sale.

But the new technology is a little like having a hidden video camera following us around all the time—with the operative word being “hidden,” meaning unknown and undisclosed.  It’s even more like having a thief come into our home and steal our private documents, read our diaries, rifle through our underwear drawers.  When I log onto a web site and an ad pops up that is obviously specifically aimed at me, well, then, it’s creepy.

So when is it an invasion of privacy, and when is it very smart marketing?  And what’s being done about this issue?  According to the Wall Street Journal, it was a topic of discussion at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  And thoughts are shifting from squelching everyone’s access to data to treating your own data like the personal property it is.

What you do with your data should be up to you.  You can insist that you are not tracked on the Internet, much like you can block phone calls from telemarketers, as long as there’s a working system in place.  Or, you can use your data and sell it to marketers yourself.  And all sorts of variations in between.

But the fact is, the data is out there.  How we protect ourselves as individuals is as much a question as the ethics of using that data to produce a better marketing result.  Anyone have an answer?

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