Nowadays, it is rare to see a person without a mobile device of some kind, including a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or mp3 player. These devices have become important parts of our lives and we don’t go a day without using them. We download apps and access the Internet on a daily basis for our enjoyment like it’s not a big deal. What if you knew that most of the apps you use everyday were collecting data on you? Would you still use them? Whether you were paying attention or not, chances are you gave the makers of these apps permission to collect data on you when you agreed to download the apps. It is not always clear exactly what data is being collected, but that data is usually sold to third parties for advertising purposes. Now information about you, that you may not have wanted to share, is floating out there for advertisers and marketers to grab for the taking.
With the rise of social networking technologies and companies’ increasing focus on personalizing consumer experiences in the online sphere, privacy and data protection today are important issues to numerous industries. Internet technologies pose numerous challenges and opportunities for rights holders. The Privacy Act only covers personal information. Any information that is not personal information is not covered by the Act. Under the new definition, personal information is information about an identified individual, or an individual who is reasonably identifiable.
Information can therefore be personal information in two ways. The first where information directly identifies an individual — what we normally think of as our “personal information”. In other words, this would be the unique identifiers needed for our lives such as our name, email address. and credit card number. The second where information does not directly identify an individual, but that information can be combined with other information to identify that individual.
A residential address is a good case in point. An address does not identify an individual directly. 742 Evergreen Terrace is not an unique identifier. However, 742 Evergreen Terrace can be used as a means to combine different pieces of non-personal information together to reveal the identity of an individual. 742 Evergreen Terrace + Duff Beer drinker + doughnut consumer + balding head + nuclear power plant worker = Homer Simpson.
Targeting consumers on mobile devices creates new challenges as marketers deal with complex environments and need to carefully consider how to deal with the issue of privacy. New technology requires education – consumers need to understand how to manage their privacy. New technologies include cross-device programmatic platforms and geo-location processing platforms. Cross-device platforms capture information from consumers on both desktop and mobile without using personal identifiable information (PII). They use data points available on mobile web and app browsers and pair it with devices. Geo-location platforms use location data to create, or tie to, user profiles and provide consumers with relevant mobile advertising. Respecting consumer privacy is of paramount importance when protecting a company’s brand reputation. The solution for companies is to provide transparency about their data collection practices and offer ways for consumers to manage their privacy preferences across different advertising networks and platforms.
While many people realize that businesses and governments track their activities online, the vast majority do not realize the extent to which tracking occurs and how much information about them is available to parties whom they do not know. A new online interactive documentary, that is available for free online, seeks to change that by educating Internet users (i.e., most of humanity) in a clear and fun fashion about the risks that they truly need to understand.
Image courtesy of a study done by TRUSTe
Even with consumers being educated, it is still a scary thought to know that there will be times data is collected without permission. I believe permission should always be requested before information can be shared to prevent these privacy issues and potentially build trust between marketers and consumers. So do you dare to share? More often than not, you don’t have a choice.