Marketing interests

Much of the technology around big data has grown out of the opportunity to monetise Internet and social network data by selling it to marketing companies. Google, Facebook, and many other high-tech companies both in New Zealand and overseas integrate personal data to develop new marketing methods; Flybuys is a familiar example of this.

Marketers profit from the integrated personal information that allows them to target services that inform consumers about products. The people whose data is being used receive a free service such as email, a social media platform, or rewards points, and some better-targeted advertising, but the value of the integration of data itself (the insight itself about the person) is sold off to others to use for their benefit, not for the person whose profile is being built through integrated data. People are not receiving the true value of their personal data.

So none of this is high-trust or high-value to the individual; the people whose data is being used and sold have no access to their own data, and they have no control over what it is used for. They are excluded from the value chain; in most cases there is little to no transparency around the use and re-use of their data.

Embryonic attempts to hand back some control to people is emerging. Privacy settings controls are rudimentary attempts to hand back limited control. Ability to delete search histories on Google provides another layer of control reflecting “right to forget”. But none of this comes close to what is possible in terms of control.

A better approach is the development of Personal Information Management Systems (PIMS) such as MyWave here in New Zealand. These kinds of system allow people to capture and derive value from their own data. Users can upload high-quality data about themselves to a PIMS and create a consent-based relationship with marketing companies: a direct relationship that returns value back to the individual, often in the form of loyalty schemes, discounts, and bonuses.

Making this relationship direct so that transactions take place between the individual and the marketing company in a transparent setting gives the person generating the data more control, and includes them in the transaction. These relationships are an improvement on traditional loyalty schemes for both parties. Marketing companies can simply ask for the data they want, and use it with its subject’s consent, which means they can derive more value from it. Individuals have control over who uses their data, have a transparent relationship with the company using it, and receive benefits in exchange.

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