Are We Too Nosy?
A few days ago a fellow Android user recommended an app enabling me to view what risk each of my smartphone's apps represent—what information they collect; what they share; and what degree of security they exhibit in collecting, storing and transmitting the data they collect. After the install, I was flabbergasted to learn how reckless these companies are, and I promptly performed sweeping deletes.
On the heels of this disconcerting revelation I started to think through our recent vetting of marketing-automation applications. Each vendor was quick to illustrate how its application—for instance—is a Google Analytics embed, augments these data points with individual user information, and boasts additional features profiling ever more complete pictures of visitors and subscribers. As a person hell-bent on keeping my private life private, have we marketers gone too far? Are we too nosy?
I think perhaps we have and we are.
With today's technology, we are able to collect more information about individual users than we could possibly process and certainly more than we could find useful—but that in itself isn't irresponsible; it's when we're not careful with or careful to protect this data to the extent we should. Yes, the big data bandwagon is here and many marketers are eager to jump on, but we also have an ethical responsibility to our constituents.
I see a great failure in our wastefulness; we collect data we don't need and, in doing so, run the risk of eroding the trust of our constituents. When we collect data and send personalized campaigns referencing information our constituents have not knowingly provided us, they become aware of our activities, and in a way that may not be welcomed.
I received an email after visiting a website, and it started with, "Not to be creepy, but we saw that you visited our website ..." Not to be creepy? The only possible reason for starting an email in such a manner is the sender is acutely aware their clients probably do not know that they can be personally tracked at a website. Most people believe their browsing activity is private, and by clearing their browser history, no one is the wiser about where they've been. We, of course, know differently.
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Cyndie Shaffstall, founder, Spider Trainers, is a successful entrepreneur and prolific author, with many books, dozens of eBooks, and hundreds of articles to her credit. She is the former founder of ThePowerXChange, editor and publisher of X-Ray Magazine, and the current founder and managing member of Spider Trainers, a managed automated email services provider for companies around the world. Connect with Cyndie on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, or join her LinkedIn Group, the Marketing Resource Library for daily links to marketing-critical resources.