July 12, 2011

Do people care about their privacy anymore?

2 minute read

It’s now right in our faces. One of the oldest newspapers in the world, the News of the World is closing. But while the background to this story is shocking will it wake the population up to the real and present threat to their privacy from a myriad of other quarters. We seem to be living in an age where every day there are new examples of the inadequate and irresponsible management of personal data. Might the NOTW scandal be the trigger that will result in a sea change in the resistance of people in their willingness to reveal much of themselves to the world. Actually does anyone really care about their privacy anymore? It’s easy to see why there has been public reaction to the phone hacking scandal but why hasn’t there been a reaction to the rapidly advancing desensitisation of the public to other threats to privacy. Not so long ago Britain was a private place where traditional British reserve meant that people would be reluctant to share any personal information about themselves or their family with anyone unless they were given a strong reason. It was assumed that only banks and GP’s could be trusted with your most innermost secrets. Not anymore – it is possible to share the most intimate stuff about yourself with 1.5 billion people through social networks and many do. It has seemed that this has defied privacy gravity and social networks are assumed to be safe places to publish stuff about yourself. This of course is not true and there as many bad guys in the world as good, and there are signs that there is a growing awareness of this risk with usage of Facebook declining among some demographics.

Only today it was announced that Yahoo is to offer email customers the chance to opt out of having their email scanned by third parties in order to offer more relevant content. This is surely outrageous – why would they think that anyone would want to offer up their privacy on a platter to a company for nothing other than a few promotions. The assumption behind this is that personal data has no value to the individual and that everything in life boils down to a commercial or materialistic benefit – we don’t believe this is remotely true. There is a new kid on the data block offering consumers the chance to sell their data for blood money – even the founders own research uncovered that most were sceptical and would not join up. Great brands would never do this and would always act in their customers interests; they would take a responsible approach to privacy not just because it’s good for business but because it’s just the right thing to do. As the one time data protection registrar Elisabeth France once said – responsible and professional marketeers treat their customers in the same way as they themselves would want to be treated. This should be the mantra for all of us working in marketing.

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Do people care about their privacy anymore?