Oh what a tangled “web” we weave… When first we practice to “deceive!”



o what a tangled web

With apologies to Sir Walter Scott I’m going to highlight two words in his quote – web & deceive

The Internet has created this incredible ecosystem for users to express themselves – however with this increased expression has come increased access to personal information that can be saved on corporate servers, searched and then resold. With the advent of the Mobile Internet, tensions regarding privacy are reaching a boiling point, as my personal information is hijacked on a daily basis by current (and sometimes deceptive) Web practices.

With this in mind we can now peer into this “tangled Web” and perceive yet another wicked problem…

How does marketing communicate with customers in a one-to-one manner consistent with their current context, and do so while both preserving customer identity across multiple digital channels and respecting privacy?

For the last decade or so we’ve only had to worry about the desktop (i.e. a single context). Now with the advent of Mobile we have a shifting context that is incredibly personal, and yet lacks the attributes of the desktop medium (no more big screen, keyboard or mouse). Now marketers are faced with an incredibly complex problem – how to communicate with a consistent but personal voice, and respect the customers right to privacy.

In my last post “Is building an Identity Ecosystem a “Wicked Problem”? I introduced the notion of real time context:  the ability to transparently share my Identity and context with a Web server in real time. However I left off one crucial item – consent which ties directly into the above problem.

The current practice (which is frequently deceptive) is to bury privacy and data use policy in legalese or Terms of Service. Basically, you sign away all your rights – consent to everything by using the site, and then they can do anything they want to with your data. That sounds just so archaic, so 1999, back when Mobile meant a laptop computer.

So how do we bring privacy and consent into the 21st century? Or should we even bother? I say, yes – it’s absolutely worth the bother. Let’s think of it in terms of this simple analogy. Remember when bankers hours were 9-5, Monday to Friday. But then they found out that everyone was working and if they wanted to keep their business they needed to adapt to the customer. Well now we have 24 hour ATMs and can bank on our way home from work or on a Saturday.

Well that’s what’s going to happen with Privacy – and the catalyst is going to be Mobile. It’s too late to put Pandora back in the box – Web-based advertising and behavioral targeting are here to stay.  However what we can do is figure out a “programmatic” solution to play nicely with Pandora. And let me tell you the stakes are HIGH. There are billions of dollars in revenues at stake here, let alone the other wicked problem mentioned above.

So what is the solution? – simple – give me a clear and simple choice.  Let me manage what context I am willing to share with a user-driven,  “Personal Context Manager.” In other words give me an electronic “ME” database that I have complete control over, and lives on my devices, not someone else’s servers. Inside that electronic database is my data.  It includes personal information, device information and also geo-location information. All combined it’s a very precise database (or not) on who I am, what device I’m using and where I am.

Now what I need to be able to do is easily share that data with trusted Web sites. The only criterion is my definition of “trust”. If you abuse my trust I can turn it off – and we go back to 1999 – page/content only context. However if we all play nicely in the sandbox, then I’m willing to share my data with you in return for more relevance and value from you.

Think about it for a moment. In the history of browsers there’s never been a way for me to control the data I share. Even the Do Not Track standard doesn’t allow me to do it. And that’s got to change. Only when I determine the trust level can I be confident that online businesses will respect my privacy.

So the answer to these two wicked problems can be summed up as “consensual context”. There’s now a programmatic way to add my consent and my context to the protocol that binds us all – the Internet. And even though my worst case position is 1999 (i.e. what we have now) for those Corporate brands that really want to go the next “Marketing Mile,” they can start with user-controlled consent and establish a new level of trust that crosses over to any “screen” with which I choose to connect to them.


Posted in: #Choice, #mobile, Choice, Identity, Privacy

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