Listen up marketers, I know you’re taking my data.
I know that algorithms and people I’ll never meet know more about my interests, views on the world and weird idiosyncrasies than many of my closest friends.
I understand that I pay for Facebook, Gmail and many of my favorite services with fractions of my identity. I get that I’ve tacitly agreed to put myself for up sale and that my profile is triumphantly put on display as the cover lot of a creepy robot auction.
I also know that I can easily stop you. In the past, I’ve used Tor to make you believe I was browsing from a yurt in Mongolia or the banks of an Alaskan fjord. I’ve deployed a battalion of ad blockers and haven’t let you store so much as a snickerdoodle crumb on my computer.
But I’ve stopped all that and allowed you full access to my digital genetic code. Why? Because despite my cynicism, I believe in the power of the personalized internet. I know the vast tools that marketers have at their disposal to use my personal information to serve advertisements and onsite experiences that truly add value and are aligned with my interests. And I’m optimistic that sooner or later, the mad men will get it right.
However, for us to get there, advertisers will have to stop acting like access to my information is their right. The industry loves to throw around the claim that 63% of millennials and 58% of Gen Xers are more than happy to hand over their personal lives to brands. But marketers have badly warped this statistic. They’ve hidden behind an incomplete assertion to excuse stealing personal information from internet users while offering little in return.
The idea that the majority of millennials and gen Xers are willing to give up their data or simply don’t care about privacy is woefully misinformed. As marketing technology evolves to make data collection effortless, advertisers are showing gross levels of entitlement. Since there is minimal cost to acquire user data, lack of innovation around how to leverage that data has inevitably followed.
Instead of being so cavalier, marketers should remember that our sensitive data is simply a form of currency that we are willing to trade. You’re more than welcome to my online behavior, shopping history, current location, blood type and whatever else you need to know about me if it gets me to my desired information quicker or scores me a nice little offer. If you continue you simply disrupting me with pop-ups of vacuums because I bought a Swiffer once, please return my privacy and I’ll slide back into anonymity.
In essence, I am willing to allow you to intrude into my personal life on two conditions:
- You are obnoxiously transparent about what information you are gathering on me, why it is being collected and how it will be used.