In a speech in 2006, online security expert Steve Rambam argued that, with regard to the Internet, "Privacy is dead, get over it." There are many who believe this statement to be true, even those who hope it to be so. But does the average consumer understand what is happening online to information about them and how it is used?
Consumers are only vaguely conscious of the concept of trading some privacy for some sort of benefit: a more personalised proposition; better targeted ads; greater convenience; or access to better content.
They are even less aware of the extent to which this personal data is being hovered up and stored. With online privacy policies being long, confusingly legally written, and often times inflexible about opt-out choices. It is sometimes impossible for a customer to give 'informed consent' where they truly understand the data they are submitting and how it is going to be used, and they have agreed.
If a hotel were to start to exploit the information it knew about a guest after a visit, his other room guests, the fact that he ate too much, or drank too much, he would very likely be outraged. And probably would not patronise that hotel again. So should we expect a different standard when we interact with that hotel via its website? Surely not.
It can be argued that online companies only exist to trade on data and thus a different model applies. Maybe so, however, most brands exist online and offline and they need to apply a common and consistent standard to both worlds. This means a higher standard.
Using data to enrich a relationship and serve up a better more profitable proposition to customers is a good thing. But brands need to demonstrate that they respect their customers; that they take privacy seriously, and they make it easy for customers to understand and control how data about them is used.
Some privacy starters for companies on how to build sustainable trusting relationships with their customers:
Given that we are essentially talking about the same customers online and offline, the same approach applies. They will not accept or understand different standards in both worlds. Respectfully exploiting data is a great thing; it has the potential to bring customers and brands closer together, but it must be done in a way that builds trust, respect, and confidence.
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Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Stephen Hay is Asia Pacific regional director for ICLP, the award-winning global loyalty and customer relationship management (CRM) agency. Stephen came into loyalty at Cathay Pacific when e-mail was still something that people in research labs used to send to each other and direct mail was still king.
ICLP works with some of the world's leading customer-focused brands, including Cathay Pacific, Mandarin Oriental, and Juniper Networks; looking to bring brands and customers closer together into a more mutually beneficial and more profitable relationship. Stephen takes a customer point of view on almost everything, not always universally popular, but proven time and again to be the basis for a sustainable, profitable, long-term relationship.
March 19, 2014