Hello, SOTGC community,
This blog attempts to shine some light on the following questions:
- As an individual, can you take control of your social identity?
- As a brand, are you collecting the right amount of data?
Let’s start with facts:
“77% of US digital media and marketing professionals had increased their data collection process over the past year.”
But while digital marketers are collecting as much data as possible to personalize and target brand messages more effectively, consumers are getting increasingly concerned about their privacy and potential identity theft.
What Does the Term Social Identity Mean?
In their report, “Leveraging Social Identities”, Charlene Li and Andrew Jones of Altimeter Group define the term “social identity” and explain how relevant data can be collected so brands can build 1:1 relationships.
- Personal Profile Data
- Social Activity
The slide below lists ways to capture social identities sorted by the increasing level of difficulty:
The Lure of the Social Sign-On
If you are like me, you like the convenience of logging in with your Twitter or LinkedIn account – called social sign-on – when the opportunity presents itself; so that you don’t have to remember yet another password.
Mobile devices like cell phones and tablets – which generally have smaller screens – have accelerated the social sign-on trend; particularly for apps.
As of Q2 2014, Facebook is the clear leader in social sign-ons (even for B2B):
Social sign-ons are great news for marketers, as the convenience they offer can increase registrations and other (potential) buyer engagement in marketing campaigns.
The social sign-on information can then be used to match individuals with existing records in a CRM system to create more complete personas. As a result, marketing messages can become even more relevant in regards to product, place, promotion, and even price.
- Consumers will appreciate that they receive less spam and more personalized communications. Or at least that is the nirvana.
- Consumers may not appreciate, or should be concerned about, giving away so much personal data. Examples of hackers targeting brands include the theft of 40 million credit card details from Target and the blackmail of Domino’s Pizza, where hackers threatened “to release account information of over 600,000 customers.”
When I brought up the topic with my husband, CTO at security startup, Lookingglass Cyber Solutions, he said: “I would NEVER use social sign-on”.
What If (Only) You Owned Your Data?
A number of startups offer to help you own your social identity by storing it in a single place and then letting you decide how much of it you’d like to share. Depending on the amount of data you are sharing (with brands), you will be compensated. In effect, the startup is brokering your data.
Here some examples of what they say:
”Did you know that companies spend over $2 billion a year in the US alone to buy personal data from data brokers? But when was the last time you got a check in the post for the information about you that is being sold?”
“For too long, your data has lined the pockets of just about everyone except you. Datacoup helps you aggregate, package and sell your personal data. Finally, you can earn money and peace of mind from your data.
“Who should control your digital soul? Cookie Monsters, Identity Thieves, Big Brother, or You?”
“I think people are just starting to realize that these large companies are acting as silos and that making ‘us’ the product is a form of digital feudalism.”
~ Katryna Dow, CEO, Meeco (The Rise of the Personal Data Marketplace.)
Forgive Me For Being Confused
How does centralizing and selling your data yourself prevent the existing data brokers from continuing to collect and sell your social identity?
- How does it prevent unauthorized data brokers from filling in the gaps in your social identity with the information you have chosen not to share?
- Why would I trust some company with my (aggregated) social identity data? How can they guarantee to protect it?
It seems that never has there been a bigger incentive and clearer target for a hacker who wants to steal your identity.
These new startups seem to position themselves as altruistic privacy defenders when in fact they are out to make a buck on your social identity; albeit with your consent.
The other big question is: would consumers actually provide accurate information?
The solution MIT suggests is for you to own your own data and to share only code instead of data. They admit to some unresolved challenges, but as Dirk Helbing, professor of sociology at ETH Zurich puts it: “I don’t see another way of making big data compatible with constitutional rights and human rights.”
Example: “Instead of you sending data to Pandora, for Pandora to define what your musical preferences are, it’s Pandora sending a piece of code to you for you to define your musical preferences and send it back to them.”
As openPDS is currently in beta testing, the jury is still out.
What is the Solution?
Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to protecting your own data. Even if you were completely disconnected (and that means not even a mobile phone), there would most probably still be information about you available online (e.g. pictures you are tagged in).
As a consumer, the most promising approach, I believe, is to minimize the amount of data you share (avoid social sign-ons if you are concerned). You can sign up for services like LifeLock, or set up alerts yourself to be informed of any transaction on your bank account, for example. Constant monitoring is probably one of the most effective actions you can take.
For brands, the question is at what point collecting data to personalize the consumer’s experience is adversely impacted by the consumer’s concern for their privacy.
As an example from Target shows, if consumers feel that Big Brother is watching, they feel uncomfortable.
So What is the Right Balance?
According to the article Marketplace “a recent report by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission showed that data brokers operate with a fundamental lack of transparency and called for more accountability, but specific legislation is still not on the horizon.”
Here is the solution for brands to solve the dilemma of what data they should vs. what data they could collect in an elegant manner.
Let me quote @BenjaminPring of Cognizant who tweeted at a recent #CodeHalos Tweetchat:
“Tell your customers what you know about them.“
Honesty is generally the winning long-term strategy!