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How much you violate privacy depends on how much consumers will let you

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Privacy is dead. Technology killed it. For marketers, it's everything we could have hoped for.

Of course, it's more complicated than that. Big data, or the use of data by brands, generates a lot of discussion around privacy and ethics. What eludes most of the conversation is that the discussion is largely irrelevant.

Consumers will allow almost any privacy violation if they determine a brand's offer is equal to the level of the violation. Over the past couple of years there have been highly publicised instances of privacy violation, yet because the brands have understood their customers and the way in which the data will be used, these uses have been highly celebrated as innovative marketing initiatives, and rightly so.


 The KLM Surprise campaign messaging.

We all remember the KLM Surprise campaign. KLM basically stalked their loyalty customers across social media to find out what they liked or wanted (You can view the cutesy campaign video here). Next time those customers went to check in, there was a gift waiting for them based on their social media posts. A huge privacy violation, but KLM knew what data they wanted to collect, why, and gave customers a value-add equal to the level of violation.

Most recently we saw Amazon's grand announcement of Echo, a machine that will listen to every single sound that occurs in your house. It will listen to you speak even when you're not addressing it. It will learn what you talk about when you have friends over for dinner. It will listen to the movies and TV shows that you watch. It will hear the arguments you have with your partner.


Amazon Echo will always be listening.

For me, the most terrifying section of Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" was the passage that describes Winston in his apartment, hiding in the furthest corner, just so he could have a moment to himself. Echo isn't quite as sinister as Big Brother (I hope), but that's the feeling I personally get from this product.

However, I believe Echo is a product designed for Amazon Prime customers. These are customers who order from Amazon every day and Echo will go a long way in making the ordering process simpler. All you need to say is "Alexa, we're out of paper towels," and it's ordered through the Amazon store. As above, a huge privacy violation, but customers will decide whether or not the value-added to the violation is worth it.

I support efforts by government and industry organisations to raise awareness on data privacy. However, I believe the issue of privacy and ethics is a conversation that takes place directly between brands and consumers.

 Technology will always be ahead of regulation. Governments are still talking about first and third party cookies, while the industry has moved on to browser fingerprints.

At the end of the day, it comes back to the most basic principle of data collection — don't collect data unless you know what you are going to be using it for. And when deciding on the value you're going to be offering as trade-off for the privacy violation, you must always see the value from a consumer's perspective, not your brand's.

Name: Daniel Dewar

My time in the digital industry: 3 + years

My mission at Datalicious:
Build a data knowledge base for the industry. Be an innovator of agency marketing and raise brand awareness.

My special blog topics:
Data analysis, web analytics, media attribution, marketing strategy

Digital trend I'm most excited about:
The democratisation of data. There is still a large knowledge gap for most users between the data that's available and how that can be best used – it's an exciting time for people like me who want to fill that gap.

Brand whose marketing I admire:
Buffer, Nike, Oreo (the rainbow Oreo!

Favourite digital campaign of all times:Close the Gap. Not purely digital, however it put an issue very close to me very much front and centre in Australia. The phrase 'closing the gap' entered the lexicon because of this campaign and helped shaped COAG policy.

Digital tool/gadget I cannot live without:

HTC One + these apps: Any.do, Pocket, Buffer, Agenda, Twitter (despite the noise)

If I wasn't working in digital, I would be...:
A sound designer in film & television (what I used to be).


  • Guest
    ab Friday, 14 November 2014

    i miss the discussion of the difference of governments spying on people and i. e. amazon creating a service from "echo". Even if i never would like to have such a amazon device in my household, my primary discomfort derives from being spied by second order parties (i.e. government agencies and their private partners, insurance companies and the like) through "echo". If the purpose is getting orders, there is no need to wire and tape all the ordinary indoor noise, but if surveillance is the aim storing all this stuff for years to later build up precrime profiles, health security risk assessment or financing balance predictions is somehow scrary, isn't it? This said, it seems very likely that second & third parties will use "echo" in a way, customers won't have intended when putting "echo" on their sideboard - it's a shame that today you need to see such devices from this perspective rather than from a pure customer-service provider perspective.

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Guest Thursday, 27 October 2016