Who owns consumer data? Who has access to it? Where is it stored? Can it be deleted? These were some of the questions raised at a recent breakfast briefing about the future of personal data hosted by Trajectory Partnership, the London-based consumer insight and futures consultancy. A more in-depth analysis of these issues is covered in our report, Personal privacy and consent marketing: The new competitive battleground?
Today's marketers have access to more consumer data than ever before, enabling brands to create highly targeted and personalised advertising campaigns. But increasingly sophisticated technology such as online cookies, geo-location mobile phone tracking and facial recognition can leave consumers with a growing sense of unease and leave companies with the dreaded "creep factor".
From credit card companies that can predict the likelihood of divorce to a father learning of his teenage daughter’s pregnancy via a targeted coupon, it's evident there is a fine line between convenient targeting and 'big brother' tracking.
Hence responding to consumers' growing data privacy concerns is a core challenge facing marketers today.
While many tech evangelists claim "privacy is dead", studies suggest otherwise. Trajectory's Global Foresight report found that data privacy concerns are a transnational issue with consumers in countries including China (62%), Australia (49%), United States (40%), UK (29%), Netherlands (30%), and Sweden (25%) declaring privacy concerns.
The collection of personal data by marketers is increasingly used to sell to consumers in a more personalised and targeted way. And studies have shown that some consumers are comfortable sacrificing their data for tangible benefits that may include rewards, special offers, improved products, discounts, relevant recommendations and tailored services etc.
As consumers become more aware of the value of their data it’s likely that they will begin to enter into "negotiations with brands" to begin trading and profiting from their personal data.
Indeed AT&T, the US telecoms giant, is experimenting in this space by offering residents in Austin, Texas, cheaper broadband but the caveat? The cheaper deal applies only to those consumers who sign up to the "AT&T Internet Preferences” programme which will enable AT&T to “use your Web browsing information, like the search terms you enter and the Web pages you visit, to provide you relevant offers and ads tailored to your interests.” Time will tell how customers will react to this initiative.
But whatever way you look at it, the commoditisation of data has begun.