Privacy is privacy

This week’s readings are focused on privacy issues with user-shared information – our personal data streams. We’ve been talking quite a bit lately about all the data available for mining of the internet – the extent to which is beyond our current ability to fathom. And as we were all beginning to have the urges to cover our webcams with post-it notes, here comes several articles to show that we might actually still have some control over at least some of the information we release.

This Mashable article gives some advice on how to handle a situation in which your employer asks for your Facebook password. The second article deals with the legal questions of such a request. I would follow the advice int he first one and tactfully decline access to anything other than what is publicly available. I would not surrender the passwords for my social media accounts, not because I’m trying to hide anything, but because I would put my family and friends at risk of privacy invasion, jeopardize misunderstandings of harmless posts taken out of contexts (from five years ago, nevertheless), and expose my private life that I prefer remains private.

The final paper explores the possibilities of enabling participatory privacy in a personal data stream. This paper simultaneously applauds the Code of Fair Information Practice for setting some guidelines for sharing personal data, and highlights its deficiencies. Privacy is defined as controlling the personal flow of information, but with more information available than we even know what to do with, privacy becomes a murky matter. Take mobile phones for example. The article said that mobile phones are “the most widespread, embedded surveillance system in history.” Heck, even I have glanced at my cell phone sitting beside me in the car while I belt out what I believe is the most perfect Christina Aguilera imitation in the history of the world, and wonder if “THEY” have chosen to listen in at this particular moment and are all as amazed with the perfection of the imitation as I am.

There are many fantastic positives about tracking information like geolocation with phones. If I get lost in the woods with my phone, perhaps my rescuers will be able to track me down. If I signed up to participate in PEIR (Personal Environmental Impact Report) I could discover and reduce my carbon footprint on the Earth. If I had a heart defect and my doctor could monitor my condition daily without my having to go to the office every day, that would be amazing. But misunderstanding or misjudging the risks of putting so much information out there could be detrimental to my overall personal privacy. I don’t even make my “MapMyRun” app log entries public because I don’t want to reveal my times and routes on running days to the world. (That info screams “Come attack me at this specific time at this specific place because there are few witnesses!”) This idea of a PDS with a Personal Data Vault is very appealing and shows that we’ve just tapped the surface of data security. A personal vault gets inserted between you phone and the application that collects data, becoming customized data sharing filters. This would be similar to what Chris mentions in his Week 15 blog, but without having to feel like a secret agent. With control over what you share with whom, and clear expectations on why you are sharing that information and where it’s going, you can don a co-investigator hat and work with very helpful data collection to improve many vital areas of our world, like environmental impact and medicine.

This week several people have been asking whether we’d share our FB passwords. I want to know under what specific circumstances you share personal information online? What criteria have to be met for you to feel safe enough to share private information?

Mining the ‘Digital Ecosystem’

For this week’s class, we read From Informaton To Audiences: The Emerging Marketing Data Use Cases, a Winterberry Group White Paper that surveyed marketers to see how they are “commonly deploying multichannel data to improve advertising and marketing effectiveness and efficiency.” By targeting four specific focuses, the Winterberry Group found not only a trends in the marketers they surveyed, but in U.S. marketing in general.

While advertising and marketing still attempt to increase sales, the avenues have changed dramatically as businesses comb the “digital ecosystem” for information. The four focuses are as follows:

  1. Audience Optimization — The case study featured in this section is one that I am very familiar with, and, in fact, is one that my husband was pushing as my research project. Catalina Marketing was a client of his when he was a business consultant with Arthur Anderson several years ago. They were one of the first to pilot the point-of-purchase coupons programs. Now evolving, they continue to track in-store purchases with online and offline sales data, which has generated up to 20 times the redemption rate of other coupon programs. They’ve effectively used their data to increase conversion.
  2. Channel Optimization — CO is geared toward using data to engage existing audiences at a richer level. Yes, blanketing the market with social media is nice, but drawing and keeping the audience on your website is a much more valuable in getting your message across.
  3. Advertising Yield Optimization — I can speak from experience on this one. The business my husband and I own, ForeverLawn of Tampa Bay, occasionally advertises in home product magazines. Our greatest concentration of clients currently are located in South Tampa, a predominantly wealthy area (our synthetic grass projects tend to be pricey). Firsthand, we have seen the rise in magazines specializing in high-end products. Circulation for these publications have increased (which is good for them) and response to the featured products has increased due to the targeted audience (which is good for us).
  4. Targeted Media Buying — Marketers are able to identify, “purchase” and target hig-value customers across channels, in rapid time frames.

Because the “ecosystem” is still so new and the depth of data still undetermined, there are some challenges to be met. Now, ad sales reps are going to need to be tech and media savvy in addition to skilled in sales techniques. Marketing data governance is going to become a priority in determining the “rules of the road”, especially in educating customers.

Data transparency is a critical component of the solution. Industry executives agree that consumers need to understand how their data is being used before they will begin to trust brand use of that data. The preferred response for most marketers is to allow consumers to opt out of some data use practices.

The new digital ecosystem is going to shift from solely focusing on broad advertising to drive the bottom line, to controlling the advertising and marketing process funnel from branding to conversion.

All of this information brings to mind several questions: To what extent will all businesses – large and small – be required to increase their tech and media savvy-ness in order to compete for customers’ attentions? Will small business owners lose out? What makes a good salesman now?

Targeting the Right Market

This week’s focus is on testing and targeting the right message for the right audience.

The first of our readings featured a research study conducted for the city of Philadelphia for Developing Media Interventions to Reduce Household Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption. The city’s health department wanted to run an ad campaign to reduce consumption of sugary beverages by children in order to fight obesity. In order to make the campaign as effective as possible, the city wanted to know who specifically to target and how to do it. They began with a 30-minute telephone survey in the summer of 2010 of residents who were primary caregivers of children 3-16. The survey covered demographics, family eating patterns, availability of these beverages, and several other topics. With the information gathered, the city created a campaign that featured a single African-American mother and her son in television and transit ads, with the addition of a radio spot. (The transit ads featured questions that could be answered through text messaging.)

Overall, I was impressed with the time and effort applied to this campaign, although the long-term effects of it are lacking at this point. That a municipality – albeit a large one – would devote such resources to make their ads more effective is admirable.

The second article, Online Consumer Behavior: Comparing Canadian and Chinese Website Visitors, compared the online store user behavior between two very diverse cultures with the general premise that “customers surf a site if they perceive it as informative, useful, and entertaining.” And therein lies the challenge. First, you must create a site that is informative and still entertaining, but you must define each of those for each culture. The findings suggest “that website designers should use different techniques to increase visitors’ feelings of pleasure and likability of the website for Canadian and feeling of control over the website for Chinese customers”, and “Increasing customers’ attitudes toward the website can be considered as a competitive advantage” for services providers who target the control-oriented Chinese.

So, again, we see that investments in time and resources in targeting online marketing pay off. Is it more effective/realistic to build a message after studying a targeted demographic, or develop the message first and tailor it to a targeted demographic?