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How to Play Rock, Paper, Scissors Over Consumer Privacy



Behavior tracking data is worth its weight in cyber gold.

Scissors, represented by the index and middle ...

Image via Wikipedia

Thanks, Wendy Davis of MediaPost for reporting the latest news from Washington on consumer privacy legislation. Davis reports there are actually three bills before Congress;  each centers on self-regulation in some shape or form. All come under the watchful eye of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  (Somehow, the phrases “self-regulation” and  “watchful eye” read like an odd contradiction in terms. No matter.)

More and more, consumers want a piece of this virtual action — so we hear and assume. But, as you know, empowerment demands action. If/when self-regulation happens, the required but mindless privacy opt-in click at the bottom of websites will change. It will become engaging to the point of empowerment through mass customization.

Rock: Privacy engagement becomes empowerment.

At some point, business enterprises (particularly consumer brands) will require/request new customers or simple visitors to first authorize and customize the collection and use of personal behavior data. When this happens, it will affect just about every point of commerce, branding, and regulation. It stretches back all the way to fair trade, personal rights, and all the way forward to relationship marketing, Web 3.0.  Some consumers already advocate that they want to secure access to the data that’s collected about them. Well, not exactly. Some studies indicate that consumers may want to secure the right to have the access should and when they want to take a peek at what’s being collected.  If they don’t like what they see — or just get fed up with the amount of data that gets mined — then they may want the right to opt-out of the whole data collection bucket.

Paper: The crossroads of consumer privacy.

To restate:

rock, paper scissors

rock, paper, scissors, by iluvdandelions (

  • Consumers aren’t sure if they care enough to invoke their right to set limits to data collection.
  • Consumers aren’t sure what levels of data collection currently exist and how this data is stored, used, and merchandized.
  • Multiple industries and organizations are attempting to self-regulate and establish best practices.
  • Congress and industry are cooperating over self-regulation initiatives that would empower consumers to become aware and participate in setting their own privacy thresholds.

Scissors: A turning point in relationship marketing.

In order for a full and successful paradigm shift to customer-managed relationships, this aspect of consumer engagement about privacy needs to be fleshed out totally. A public service ad about privacy isn’t enough. It calls for engagement — the plain, old-fashioned brand engagement full of benefits, promises, and rewards for the consumer. Consumers need to be pre-sold to the benefits of designating their personal privacy threshold at the point of sale and/or at the point of entry.

It will be interesting to see if, when, and how marketers will take this up. Not simply because they may be required to — whether by law or self-regulation— but because it makes good business sense for the intangibles of reputation and the measurable of customer lifetime value.  That’s a pretty high-stakes game of rock, paper, scissors.

What’s your experience of consumer privacy and behavior targeting?

  • Have marketers learned enough from the earlier days that led to Do-Not-Call, Do-Not-Mail, and Can Spam legislation?
  • Is the issue deeper than of these?
  • Will consumers be fully engaged in the process of setting best practices?

Please share your thoughts here, bookmark, or e-mail this link to a colleague. Thanks!



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Credits (all retrieved March 9, 2001)

MediaPost Publications Stearns’ Privacy Bill Calls For Self-Regulation, FTC Oversight 03/08/2011, Wendy Davis, MediaPost.

rock, paper, scissors , originally uploaded by iluvdandelions

scissors, originally uploaded to Wikipedia

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