Oct 10

404 Privacy Not Found

The curious thing to me about the Facebook apps ‘leaking data’ story is not that’s its happening, but rather the low levels of digital literacy (or the fact that this has been happening for years) by the public:

Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.

The difference in the past was that the cost of acquiring this data was substantial enough to make it not worth the effort.  The amount of data freely available and the decreased cost of computing power make it a trivial effort.  This is only going to become more prevalent as online providers look to monetize the sale of data.  The problem is that data is being used in ways that the average internet user cannot comprehend, and therefore cannot make an informed decision to opt-in or opt-out.

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Jul 07

Adventures in Psychographics, Demographics, and Direct Mail Marketing

When I worked for Saturn (at a local retailer) I was dismayed by the Automobile Dealers' idea of successful marketing.  The typical ploy went like this – go to your marketing firm, pick a geographic area, set a range for desirable credit card scores, refine the population list by score, design and drop a mailing, and go.  The typical mailing promised some kind of schmeeke, where you got some worthless trinkets or a chance at winning a car (which I'm sure was run in a fair and transparent manner) and maybe, maybe, some small percentage of the people walking through the front door would buy a car.  See, the point of the advertising wasn't to find people who want to buy a car – the point of the advertising was to increase floor traffic.  The standard maxim is that you can close (get someone to agree to buy 33% of the time).  So, if you get 300 people through the door, you should sell 99 cars.  If you want to sell more cars, you need to get more people through the door.  Supply side economics at it's finest.

The whole arrangement seemed wasteful to me, and I was sure the better information was available that could be used in different ways.  In my position as Financial Services Manager, I maintained my own databases, and often manipulated the data to reveal trends that might normally escape notice.  In looking at these, comparing it with what I had observed in my interviews with customers, viewing credit reports, and aggregated loan and credit bureau information, an increasingly clear profile of our customers became clear.

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