The country has been transfixed over the past few weeks with the leaked NSA PRISM program as more details around how the government organization collects and analyzes personal communications for the purpose of national security. The story is still developing, and the ultimate fallout from the leak is still unknown.
There is one thing that is for sure. The public perception of data will never be the same.
Data is Everyone’s Business
For a time there was an invisible value exchange. Consumers would take actions, marketers, technology platforms and research organizations would collect their data and use it to deliver better experiences for users and more targeted marketing for advertisers.
Privacy and data have been fleeting topics and concerns for people, but for the most part, apathy prevailed, and the ad industry worked to self regulate and use data responsibly to prevent any need to change practices dramatically.
The NSA PRISM leak has pushed data and privacy into the public consciousness in a big way. No matter what side of the debate of whether the program is good or bad, the value of personal data has never been clearer. There was always a segment that understood this, and many worked to protect their privacy and data as much as possible. Now, everyone understands they’re generating data, and organizations want that data.
Some will continue to remain apathetic in regards to privacy and data. Others will be more concerned than ever before and demand more control and greater transparency.
Google, Facebook, Yahoo and other tech companies have anticipated this. They’ve requested permission to share with users information on how they’re data has been shared and used with the NSA program. This lobbying effort has mostly been unsuccessful, but they want to address user concerns before it turns into an outcry. Google’s gone so far to take this to court.
Are Businesses Ready for an Increased Awareness of Data?
Tech companies are in the spotlight now, but the attention on this could push consumers to wonder about the loyalty cards they use, why they’re being retargeted online and how those emails are oh so relevant to what they were looking at yesterday. People like to feel in control of their privacy and information. When they feel control, they feel comfortable.
The general population may become more concerned with how their data is being used and grow more vocal in demanding information on how data is used and collected. Yes, some won’t care, but what about the people who do?
Transparency has become a buzzword for marketers and has lost much of its meaning, but when consumers come knocking (or perhaps even before they do) businesses may be forced to answer what transparency really means to them.
What is your business prepared to share about how customer data is collected and used within your organization? How will you communicate this to them if you have to or feel you need to? Data is powerful, and the general population is only starting to realize how powerful it is.