In recent years, many of us have become more and more uncomfortable with the idea that the government, and quite a few of our favorite websites, know more about us than we ever wanted them to. I can’t count the amount of companies who know the brand of shoes I bought 4 months ago, the blog I browsed to find a dinner recipe for tonight, or even the exact amount of times that I have clicked on a cat lovers website, all of which gives me chills.
The e-commerce, business and publishing sites you visit have made a faustian bargain with sometimes shadowy 3rd party advertising companies and this bargain is called retargeting. Publishers get paid to sell your site visit information to the ad company and then host ads targeted to your recent site visits. Then e-commerce and business sites trade your data for the ability to advertise their products to you as much as possible. Just glance at your Facebook feed and you might notice an ad about the brand of glasses you just finished purchasing on Amazon. That’s retargeting in action. Yet, advertising companies don’t stop at retargeting or trying to sell you more stuff, many sell your data to anybody willing to pay. My question is, where was I when the company made this bargain?
The companies that take part in retargeting argue that if consumers were so upset about them collecting data, they would boycott the internet, or do more. That is completely wrong to assume. In the TechCrunch article, “The Online Privacy Lie is Unraveling”, it says, “91% (of the survey respondents) disagree (77% of them strongly) that “If companies give me a discount, it is a fair exchange for them to collect information about me without my knowing”. This article continues to explain that a majority of internet users don’t even know they are allowing companies access to this information, or that it’s legal.
Regardless of our ill feelings towards the bargain which buys and sells our data, we continue to log onto twitter, our favorite airline, amazon, google, Facebook or any number of product and business sites. There is a fear of what information people have about us, but we haven’t stopped using the internet in the ways we have been in the past. We are uncomfortable with what people know about us, but have no way to combat the loss of control of our data and our privacy.
Ultimately, people are unhappy with the idea of sites taking their personal information and spreading it out to these shadowy 3rd parties. Nobody feels like they have ownership or control over their data, or they feel it’s too late to do anything to stop these companies. Users of technology and the companies that serve them need to change their way of thinking if we are going to gain control of our data and our privacy.
Companies should build products and services based on a consumer's willingness to give them their data. Then the company could build products or solutions based on the needs of that specific user. I would have no problem ALLOWING my choice of companies to use my browsing history. If this were an option, I would love for Pillsbury to have my information on how many gluten free biscuit recipes I’ve looked at. Maybe then they would feel encouraged to create this product in a can. The whole idea is that I approve of Pillsbury using my data and they don't have to take my information in secret. There is a lot of good that can come from our browsing history but it is something that we should be able to take ownership of, it’s property.
It’s reasonable to predict that consumers are going to switch to wanting to only work with companies that respect their data as the consumer's property. The internet is too important for consumers to not take control of their data soon. I encourage newer companies to address data privacy when building their business plan, and recognize that consumers will hold them accountable. Because consumers, it’s time for us to control our data.
Your loyal Plum intern,
The TechCrunch article mentioned
The TechCrunch article mentioned