The Rising Ick Factor

icky-face (1)This really isn’t news:

That credit bureaus monitor our actions and marketing agencies score our consumer propensities is well known.

That we routinely sign-up for mailing lists and make all sorts of on-line purchases without bothering to even read the privacy policy, is commonly accepted.

That Facebook, Google, Amazon and who-knows-how-many other on-line systems track our clicks, preferences and patterns to deliver fundamental parts of their value propositions.

That cellphones and smartphones provide real-time tracking of our movements and electronic interactions.

There’s no surprise in the fact that we are being monitored – and that analysis is being scored, scrutinized, leased and exchanged.  We are pretty much aware that this is going on.

And for the vast majority, we’ve decided to live with the “icky” feeling that results.

So why isn’t “privacy” an even greater national priority?

Perhaps we just feel helpless.  Or perhaps we take comfort in the belief that ours is just a tiny byte amidst a vast ocean of data.    At the very least, this queasy balance seems to rest on an implicit understanding that despite the concerns, the collection of such data serves the mutual interests of sellers and buyers:

  • Sellers desire the ability to target their limited marketing & service resources to the people most likely to purchase or value what they are selling or providing, and
  • Buyers want (at worst) to be spared receiving vast amounts of information that it outside their area of interest and (at best) to receive information that is especially relevant and opportune.

It’s too early to make complete sense of the unfolding news of the US Government’s wholesale collection and analysis of cell phone and Internet data on the activities of US citizens.  There are surely more “shoes to fall.”

But let’s immediately acknowledge that for ourselves – and for our audiences – the “Ick Factor” has just risen considerably.  On a national scale, perhaps this will prompt a new public understanding of the lengths necessary for government to provide our national security.  Or perhaps this episode will spark dramatic action for greater protection of privacy rights.

As citizens – and as audience-builders – this is a subject that deserves our attention as it plays out.

But we can do much more than be observers to this issue.  Let’s EMBRACE this as an opportunity to embrace the idea to “Think Global/Act Local.” 

You want YOUR household data managed responsibly and with full candor?  Then go ahead and make sure that you are doing the same for YOUR audiences.  

Today – I mean, RIGHT NOW – is the ideal time to forward to your organization’s attorney a copy of whatever your organization uses to explain its policies on privacy and data collection.  Then, schedule a meeting with your attorney and all the staff responsible for any part of that process.  RIGHT NOW is the ideal time for a candid comparison of what you promise to how you actually operate.

You want to lower the Ick Factor?  “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

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