June 10, 2013

Big Data And Appalling Mischief

The snot really hit the fan last week when The Washington Post and The Guardian reported that the US had secret spying programs that are "tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies."

It was inevitable that our industry's obsession with Internet data collection would come smack up against questions of civil rights and individual liberties. But no one in the marketing or advertising industries seems to care about the consequences of our obsession with data, or the central role we are playing in this controversy.

It is an article of faith among the pundit digerati that the Internet has given us reg'lar folks more control over our lives. One of the mantras of marketing's chattering class is that "the consumer is now in charge." These people think that because we can tweet "the fries at Wendy's really suck" we now have greater economic, social and political control. They are alarmingly insensitive to the trade-offs the web has presented us with.

On several occasions during the past few years I have taken the, ahem, contrarian position that not only are we not "in charge," but the illusion that we are is masking the fact that the powerful are getting more powerful and that the individual citizen has less control than ever.

I first wrote about this in Adweek on December 29, 2010 in a piece called Big Brother Has Arrived, And He's Us.
The Internet now knows everything about us... It knows our political beliefs and our sexual habits. It knows what we eat and whether we drink too much... It knows what our ailments are, what drugs we use, what doctors we see and what our psychological profiles are....There's no reasonable way that this is a good development for a free society... There is no realistic vision of the future in which this will not lead to appalling mischief.
On April 13, 2011, I wrote:
There is an outrageous amount of personal data being collected. It is too accessible, and anyone who takes promises of internet privacy and security seriously is an idiot.
On April 9, 2012, I wrote,
Never before in history has this kind of information monopoly been in the hands of non-governmental institutions. This is completely new and we have no idea where it leads...
Whether the benefit we are getting in security information is worth the price we are paying in civil liberties is above the pay grade of advertising bloggers. But the issue of marketing's role in all this is not.

We've got to get ourselves out of the snooping business. We've gone too far.

So far as I can tell exactly no one in the marketing industry seems to give a shit. The big time web honchos at Google, Facebook, et al are in denial and playing word games. According to the San Francisco Chronicle...
...when speaking about complicated computer systems it is easy to play word games and — technically — tell the truth. “Direct access” or “open-ended access” are terms that can be truthful simply when you install another system between the first two...

“I find it extraordinarily unlikely that this could happen without these companies’ cooperation,” says Dan Auerbach, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s staff technologist.
Governments have always concocted reasonable sounding excuses for spying on their citizens. There has never been a time when there wasn't some threat to public safety that articulate leaders couldn't twist into a rationale for a secret branch of government. The difference now is, we in the marketing/media complex are complicit -- we're one of the greatest assets they have.

Is this a good thing? Do we really want to continue our relentless efforts to collect more and more data? Responsible people in our industry need to think about these questions.

Did I say "responsible people?" In the marketing industry?

Yeah, right.


Anonymous said...

Regular shopper loyalty is an awesome asset to small business.

In addition, it contains all required team
building conditions but in an amazing atmosphere.

Visit my website projekty-wnętrz-bauart.pl

Antonio Sanz said...

Accessing customer data to turn into insight is worth big bucks. Corporations are not evil, but they are systems designed to make money. There will always be delinquent employees. And government can always invoke "national security interest" to ask companies for our private information. We're all in big trouble.

Anonymous said...

When someone writes an piece of writing he/she maintains the idea of a user in his/her brain that how a user can understand it.

Therefore that's why this post is perfect. Thanks!

Here is my web-site sex

Sean Peake said...

A shake-up is coming on what and for how long companies can hold personal data of users. When I see an announcement like this, I expect a backlash coming sooner than later: http://www.warc.com/LatestNews/News/EmailNews.news?ID=31508&Origin=WARCNewsEmail

Rob Hatfield said...

I don't have a cell phone, don't use Twitter or Facebook and don't pay bills or conduct business over the internet. I wonder how long it will take the government to deem me "suspicious" because they can't find any data about me?

Anonymous said...

bungalows can be designed in any style related to
exterior architectural fashion.

Stop by my homepage: leczenie boreliozy

J.G. said...


Amidst a glut of reality T.V. shows, up popped "BAGGAGE."

In it suitors reveal their; DEEPEST/DARKEST/DANKEST secrets --of which we all have some. Truth is, of all your; friends/wives/lovers...
how many would you have taken the time to know, if upfront you knew only their indiscretions?

The fact that today even corporate HR wants your FACEBOOK PAGE, is far more inappropriate than allowing the NSA to eye it. Should some HR maven really adjudicate an applicants worth over mostly scant anecdotal data?


All this voluntary "poop" that we're giving away (for free) reminds me of Geena Davis' watchful words: "BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID!"

Anonymous said...

These Photovoltaic cells form specific receptors of typically the solar panel charger.

Here is my web site :: homepage

Anonymous said...

More wafers per ingot leads the direct lowering of a
price for energy. MCS systems come with solar photovoltaics, power thermal
panels, heat pumps and biomass boilers.

Feel free to visit my website: homepage

Anonymous said...

I every time spent my half an hour to read this webpage's articles or reviews daily along with a cup of coffee.

my web-site: asthmasymptomshq.org (meettz.com)

Perry Gaskill said...

A valid point, and one that doesn't often come up. By the same token, someone who takes privacy seriously by using encrypted e-mail or a browser tracking blocker might become suspicious because it's assumed there is something to hide.

Yet another thing to consider is that those who push too far in collecting detailed data also run the risk of having the validity of that data tainted because the disclosure is no longer considered benign. Remember BugMeNot from a few years ago? It probably turned half the internet into a bunch of cheerful liars because they didn't want to register for some lame website who wanted to put them on somebody's spam list.

Anonymous said...

An example is the associated with deep systems love cesspools and drywells.

The tanks used typically water tight packing containers used to put sewer spend without


Anonymous said...

I was suggested this website by my cousin.

I am not positive whether or not this publish is written via him as no one else understand such
distinct about my trouble. You're wonderful! Thanks!

Feel free to visit my web blog :: causes of lower back pain - lowerbackpainrightsidehq.org -

Cecil B Demille said...

The value of data to marketing types is measurable by dollars. The value of data to governments is measured in control. And the value of data to consumers is directly proportional to the service you're giving them in order to obtain it, and ergo the value they themselves place on it.

In other words, if we had been more vocal in our complete disgust with the draconian privacy policies and data collection habits – things I was personally quite vocal about (and yet I kept going anyway) – perhaps we could have headed this off much earlier. The fact that we all clicked "I Agree" at one time or another, makes us complicit in the sad state of affairs.

The worst of it is that "I Agree" is all 99% of users read of the EULA. Our laziness in stopping this where it started has led to a world where pretty much every piece of software is asking us to use our data and refusing to work at all if we don't agree.

Advertisers were complicit, yes, but everyone bears some responsibility for not protecting ourselves when we had the opportunity. We allowed the precedent to be set.

Sean Peake said...

Just thinking that the effectiveness of all that data captured by NSA to catch terrorists has had been as effective as all the data used by marketers to capture consumers. Lesson: the more you have data you have the less effective you can become.

Anonymous said...

As well check access business for a good
insulating seal. The flying sparks, hot workpiece, and hot paraphernalia
can cause fires and burns.

Check out my weblog ... STRONA GŁÓWNA

David Kissel said...

Bob - I too, am thinking of leaving Yahoo!, but it's because their mail seems harder to use than ever and it costs me $50 a year, while Gmail is free.

Also, if you don't write a post on today's WSJ article "The Case Of The Invisible Web Ads," which details the new comScore study that shows 54% of online ads weren't seen by anyone, I will be one disappointed TAC follower.

It's shocking to me that a $14B industry (online advertising) is selling a pig in a poke. And getting away with it.

adamdsouza said...

Bob – great post. All I'm going to add to the on-the-money comments is a saying I've heard a lot lately, "If you're not paying for it, you're the product being sold". We've been conned by Silicon Valley's shiny message of FREE, promised ever greater usefulness in exchange for deep, dark info about our lives. The author Jaron Lanier has written a book on this very topic, "Who owns the future". I'm reading it now and definitely recommend it. It's a terrifying antidote to the digital utopianism. It's like taking the red pill...