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Trend Brief: Privacy, Personalization, and Earned Data

June 2014

Edward Snowden set in motion a series of revelations about NSA spying on June 5th, 2013. One year later, it’s safe to say that privacy and personal data are top of mind for today’s consumers: scandalous stories break on an almost daily basis about governments spying on citizens and companies misusing personal data, and mistrust and fear is growing after numerous attacks by criminal hackers. While growing numbers of individuals are starting to take measures into their own hands to protect their privacy, progressive organizations are attempting to empower their customers by providing them access to their own data and transparency over how it is processed.

Used responsibly, brands can create more relevant, personalized experiences with access to consumers’ personal data. But given the rampant abuse of personal data, consumers are wary of brands who overstep their boundaries and unfairly use and/or profit from their personal data. However, the idea of a mutually beneficial relationship where both the brand and the consumer benefit from sharing data, is a welcomed idea and a viable way forward in our hyper-aware, post-privacy world.

Ultimately, consumers (of all ages) are scared of their privacy being invaded, but crave the personalization associated with sharing their personal preferences. To satisfy both desires, a new model of business has emerged, one in which organizations “earn” the rights to access a consumer’s data – in exchange for highly personalized service.

Highlighted in the most recent FutureVision Trend Brief:

Privacy Enters Consumer Consciousness 

As people’s lives are increasingly integrated with the online world, valuable information about them can be tracked, captured, stored, stolen and exploited. Recent high-profile privacy violations, like the Target data hack, the NSA revelations, and the Heartbleed virus have raised consumer awareness that their information isn’t safe online. As a response, consumers are becoming increasingly wary, and actively seeking ways to retain their privacy.

Transparency & Responsible Data Collection

In this privacy-conscious landscape, the onus is on brands to responsibly collect, store, and use data so consumers don’t feel like their privacy is being encroached upon. It’s more important than ever for organizations to be transparent about what data they are collecting and why, and ensure the value exchange is stacked in favor of their consumers, not the company.

The Appeal of Personalization

Although consumers are concerned about privacy, they still freely share tremendous amounts of information about themselves online. In the process, social networks and ecommerce companies have created robust social graphs, not to mention interest graphs, location graphs, and spending graphs. Access to this information has resulted in the ability for brands to offer more personalized products, services, and marketing messages.

The Quest for A Consolidated View

Retail loyalty programs were an important first step toward gaining a holistic understanding of real-world consumer behavior. Online, the success of highly targeted online advertising can be attributed to cookies. However, as wearable technologies and connected devices come online, providing even deeper connections into consumers lives, companies will be challenged to find new innovative new ways of collecting and connecting all that data.

Earned Data & Meaningful Exchanges

The free conveniences we enjoy from major tech companies are not, in fact, free. They are simply clever trade-offs for information about us. The next generation of brand engagement will emulate this model, exchanging personal data for personalized services. Because consumers increasingly recognize the true value of their data, creating ‘fair trade’ agreements forces brands into constantly innovating, as consumers need to be compensated with equally valuable services and experiences.

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