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The Balance of Privacy versus Convenience

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As consumers use more and more apps and digital services, a trove of information is being built online.  In an effort to spur convenience, organizations have started to look towards ways to use this information to help consumers.  As helpful as this may be in the world of retail, I believe that a lot of this is still considered invasive and creepy by users.

The article posted here illustrated a couple of great use cases for how big data could help customers – and I believe it is totally worth a read:

  • Using food spending habits to notify customers of a potential salmonella outbreak
  • Using purchasing patterns to predict a pregnancy – to target pregnancy related ads
  • Using weather patterns to anticipate specific products that a person would buy

The problem with this use is that many regular consumers would view this data as invasive and ‘too much’ – even if the information was being used to perform a function that is based on convenience.  However, there are plenty of places where we are completely OK with convenience.  Why is Big Data different?

For example, consumers appear to be OK with receiving coupons for items at the end of a purchase.  Customers are also OK with receiving coupons in the mail (though many of them do wind up in the trash). It would seem that a lot of this convenience would be welcome if there was a way to prioritize (or guarantee) a state of anonymity in the process.

This is where I think that Apple’s changes towards iOS with regards to privacy, and Googles use of FLoC to replace third party cookies can really be helpful.  If we can figure out a way to perform this level of analysis of data at a Cohort level instead of an individual user it could be very powerful.  Once these concepts are mainstreamed – it would be imperative that those in technology spend the time and resource to talk about this generally so that consumers could better understand these concepts.

If the customer sees that an organization is really making an effort and dedicating resources to ensuring privacy (a la Apple), I believe that customers would reward organizations with the trust needed to leverage big data in ways that have yet to see.

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