Privacy has become perhaps the hot-button issue of our time. How much information do we knowingly volunteer? Is the government infiltrating our everyday lives in the interest of national security? Are our kids protected from stranger danger? Is that a drone in my Cocoa Puffs?
For marketers, it is a brave new world and it presents a conundrum: How to deliver meaningful and personalized content while preserving appropriate individual privacy.
As Foundation Capital’s Ashu Garg points out, all consumers will eventually expect and demand that their experiences with brands be uniquely tailored to the context that they’re in. What was once science fiction—Tom Cruise walking around being served targeted ads in the movie Minority Report—is not so far-fetched nowadays.
“When retargeting took off, it was kind of eerie but now we take it for granted,” Garg says. “But as that personalization starts to transcend every experience we have with a brand, it’s going to mean that consumers and brands are going to have to find a new balance between what’s okay and not okay. There are huge challenges in our data and privacy that have to be solved for mass personalization to take off.”
We see that playing out most publicly, probably, with Facebook, where every change to privacy settings invokes another round of public debate that plays out, well, on Facebook. Most recently, The Guardian reported that Facebook tracks even users who opt out of Facebook, a violation of EU law.
The future of privacy is spectacularly speculative. Yet that hasn’t stopped the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project from tackling it head on with its recently released report The Future of Privacy, in which 2,511 respondents were asked one not-so-simple question:
Will policy makers and technology innovators create a secure, popularly accepted, and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure by 2025 that allows for business innovation and monetization while also offering individuals choices for protecting their personal information in easy-to-use formats?
In short, 55 percent of respondents said no and 45 percent answered yes but, as usual, the more interesting takeaways were more nuanced.
- Privacy and security are foundational issues of the digital world. In other words, we are in uncharted territory.
- People are living in an unprecedented condition of ubiquitous surveillance. And we’re remarkably ambivalent about it.
- People require little more inducement than personal convenience to disclose their personal information. Everyone loves a bargain.
- Norms are always evolving, and privacy will certainly change in coming years. As William Goldman wrote about Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.”
- An arms-race dynamic is unfolding. Privacy technology vs. Privacy-penetrating technology.
- Renegotiation and compromise will be a constant in privacy-security policy space. This is all about the balance between privacy, security and content.
Dawn Smith is VP Enterprise Training and User Satisfaction at i.Predictus.