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Risky Marketing

Techonomy 2013 - Tucson, AZOne Techonomy 2013 participant’s reaction to “Smart Media.”

The Techonomy 2013 session “Smart Media: Waste Not, Want Not” brought together marketing professionals from firms as diverse as Glam Media and YP (formerly Yellow Pages). They discussed how to make targeted advertising desirable by accurately assessing what people want and avoiding offending them. Alison Lowery, chief technology officer for Simulmedia, related how one consumer’s personal feedback to Jeff Bezos regarding her offense at receiving an ad for a “sensitive” product caused Amazon to rethink its ad strategy.

Although there was mention of a few languishing  privacy initiatives at the federal level, the missing component in the discussion was how global privacy frameworks impact the use of data collected for marketing purposes. At a time when the European Union is moving toward more expansive privacy protections, including explicit consent and the “right to be forgotten,” and regulatory enforcement is on the rise around the globe, ignoring privacy rights in mountains of data is risky marketing.

Beyond legal protections, there also are personal expectations of privacy that may vary due to influences, such as culture, ethnicity, age, or religion. Social media exposes personal preferences and makes them publicly accessible. Twitter and Facebook, for example provide rich feeds of information about personal likes and dislikes, choices, and beliefs. The ability to mine data and build profiles for marketing is beyond the comprehension of most Americans. It is, however, well understood by marketing professionals.

Information and communication technologies are continuing to drive economic growth, and marketing plays a critical role in reaching the right audiences and customers. When Big Data confronts varying legal frameworks and expectations of privacy, the targeted advertising becomes much more complicated and risky to the enterprise.

Jody Westby is CEO of Global Cyber Risk and provides consulting services in the areas of privacy, security, cybercrime, and IT governance. She is a participant at Techonomy 2013 in Tucson, Ariz. Follow conversations about the event @Techonomy and #Techonomy13.

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