BrainTrust Query: Privacy is Dead … and It Could Be Great
Commentary by Doug Stephens, President, Retail Prophet
Through a special
arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article
from the Retail Prophet Consulting blog.
Recently Facebook announced its intentions
to develop what it calls the Open Graph, a means of connecting data about an
individual based on their choices, tastes and preferences by profiling their
social networking and web activity. The idea is to link all of this data and
then bring it to a central point; that central point being Facebook, of course.
In doing this, Facebook would be capable of graphing an intricate, accurate
and ever-evolving picture of the individual consumer.
The strategy involves
a few things. First, they are allowing partner sites to interface with Facebook.
When a user comments on an article (on CNN.com for example), it would be shared
with their social circle on Facebook and in the process, the fact that the
user visited CNN.com would be noted and added to their graph. Second, they’re
going to share the "like" button
programming code so that any business can place the button on their site to
create a social-link back to Facebook. In the process, Facebook gathers more
data about that user’s
preferences outside of Facebook itself. Lastly, they’re going to break
from the current protocol of not storing or caching user data for more than 24
hours. They didn’t give any details about how long they intend to store
The open graph is the holy grail of marketing.
Reaction to this announcement
ranged from enthusiasm to anger. While some viewed it as a positive step toward
a more connected and meaningful internet experience, others saw it as yet another
step in the eradication of privacy as we know it.
In fairness to the naysayers,
anyone who’s been phished on Twitter or
Facebook can attest to the fact that the web can be an ugly place when you
share the right information with the wrong people. What’s particularly
disconcerting is the speed and scale of the damage that can be done when your
information gets compromised.
Having said all that, I believe that the idea
of privacy is completely outdated. We live in a world where your picture can
be taken hundreds of times in the course of a normal day. Our cell phones are
like homing beacons. Our credit card is a trail of digital breadcrumbs. And
it’s now routine to Google someone
before you meet them.
It’s really about trading information for value.
Traditionally, when we
give companies information, we don’t get any real
value in return and, if we do get anything, it’s usually just generic offers,
junk and noise.
However, imagine if we could move to a state where the marketing
messages we receive are almost completely relevant and timely. If virtually
every piece of direct marketing you received made perfect sense with respect
to your tastes and preferences and needs at that moment. If the advertising
you were sent matched your life-stage and interests perfectly. If even new
products that you’d
never heard of made sense with respect to your unique needs and wants as an
Would you be willing to trade a little privacy to get to this point?
I know I would.
Discussion Questions: How significant will the new Facebook Open Graph
initiative be to marketers? Are consumers ready to exchange more privacy
for a more personalized internet experience, including targeted marketing?