One of the more interesting issues around Big Data is whether or not consumers (and business people) will find its use creepy.
Over the last year we've been researching Big Data and what it means for small businesses and consumers. One of the issues we've been exploring is how consumers and small business owners look at data privacy. Without a doubt, "creepy" is a term we heard a lot in our interviews - especially after we explain how personal data is being used by marketers.
Despite our interviews, the recent flap about Orbitz steering Mac users to more expensive hotels caught us a bit off guard.
The reason? So much truly personal data is being used for targeting it's almost laughable people would get worked up about a website targeting you based on your operating system. This shows how little the average consumer understands about how personal data is being used in marketing.
This is starting to change, mainly due to increasing coverage in the media. A few examples include:
- Paid Content's Big Data and the Changing Economics of Privacy explains that "dozens of companies have sprung up that will prowl into a person’s past for as little as $2."
- Consumer Data, But Not For Consumers covers an attempt by a NYT reporter to gain access to his personal data held by the Acxion, one of the leading database marketing company that collects and sells personal data on consumers. The reporter was unable to access the data they had on him.
Note to the folks at Acxion, you really should do a better job of dealing with NYT reporters.
- Big Data or Big Brother has a great line that databases of personal information ''become like a honeypot to people who have malicious intent''."
- The Atlantic's The Creepiness Factor: How Obama and Romney Are Getting to Know You covers how big data is being used by the political campaigns.
We've been researching online privacy for years and have always been surprised how little interest there is on this topic by most Americans. So far we've been more than willing to give up our privacy and personal information with little concern about how it's being used.
But as I said above, this is starting to change and companies that collect and use personal data need to realize and adjust to this change.