Will 2010 be the year of behavioral targeting? The Obama administration is focused on ensuring customer (and prospect) privacy. In and of itself it is an admirable platform.
Credit, loans and banking are moving online. Digital marketing of mortgages, credit cards, student loans and other financial products will become the dominant way we relate to banking and related services. The CEO of Capital One has already said that” [A] mobile phone is just a credit card with an antenna.” So called M-commerce (mobile commerce) will be a crucial avenue where we actually apply for credit on “the fly,” so to speak, with our cell phones themselves used to buy products. Banks and other financial companies are using Facebook, social media, online video, Twitter, search engines and interactive online marketing techniques to sell their services to consumers.
Financial services companies are even using so-called ‘Neuromarketing’ by testing messages via fMRIs, (read David Mirman Scott’s book ‘Buyology’ on this subject) for example–to help hone their marketing messages.
Recently (last week), consumer representatives from the FTC Exploring Privacy Roundtable Series called on the agency to adopt new policies to protect consumer privacy in today’s digitized world. Consumer and privacy groups, as well as academics and policymakers, have increasingly looked to the FTC to ensure that Americans have control over how their information is collected and used.
The groups have asked the Commission to issue a comprehensive set of Fair Information Principles for the digital era, and to abandon its previous notice and choice model, which is not effective for consumer privacy protection. The idea is that these measures include giving individuals the right to see, have a copy of, and delete any information about them; ensuring that the use of consumer data for any credit, employment, insurance, or governmental purpose or for redlining is prohibited; and ensuring that websites should only initially collect and use data from consumers for a 24-hour period, with the exception of information categorized as sensitive, which should not be collected at all. The groups have also requested that the FTC establish a Do Not Track registry.
Behavioral targeting online, allows for the collection of data on people for tracking and target marketing. However behavioral targeting also allows people to receive relevant offers and advertisements. And consider the alternative. In an environment where no marketer has permission to use behavioral targeting consumers would be subject to a flood of irrelevant offers. Imagine being a 22 year old woman receiving offers for Flomax to help alleviate a prostate problem. Without behavioral targeting this is a possible if not likely future. True it can be creepy at times to get an advertisement or offer that appears to be the result of intimate knowledge of a person’s behavior.
The protection of sensitive data is a critical issue. Yet behavioral targeting is based on behavior or individuals noted as IP addresses – not names and actual postal or email addresses.
I think we need to be mindful of what we wish for. The cure may be worse than the symptoms.