Thursday, 20 February 2014

SOLOMO: Will Retail Consumer Big Data Self Regulation Protect Privacy?

Tracking of consumer’s movement within a retail space can give valuable insight into how to sell products and services better - offering yet another dimension to the demographic ‘Big Data’ retailers glean from your everyday shopping.

The use of location based services within smartphones allow for marketing technology firms and their retailer clients to record their every move - where you travel within a space, how long do you linger at a display and many other activities all provide significant insight.

The smartphone is the most contemporary form of human-computer interaction that we have today, the concept of Social Media, Local Search & Mobile Technology (SOLOMO) has heralded a new era in connectedness, but also convenience for both consumers and traders alike.

I started my working career in the retail industry, back when Coles Myer still ran it’s own internal Manager Development Program; in the early 90’s we saw the beginnings of consumer psychology and measuring impacts of managing traffic in retail spaces… ‘shelf talkers’, ‘price pointing’, ‘visual merchandising’... but that was child’s play…

New York Democratic Senator and consumer privacy advocate Chuck Schumer has spoken out recently in favour of tracking firms to set themselves a ‘code of conduct’ and to self regulate.Mr. Schumer goes on to state that consumers must have the opportunity to ‘opt out’ at any time and to to receive ‘clear, short and standardised’ privacy notices.

As a professional who now develops digital businesses and markets them, it’s essential to provide consumers the need to be aware that their movements are being monitored and to fully disclose all privacy aspects of ‘Big Data’. I’m also aware that, particularly in Australia, legislation is developed slowly and now more than ever fails to protect and enforce some of the most basic of consumer rights… it’s one thing to make a law, but it’s another thing to be able to make them stick…

Several medium sized players in the industry have gone public to promote their support of regulation, however many other, bigger firms are yet to back the move toward better transparency and accountability that regulation should provide. Historically, self regulation in many industry sectors has been a failure and there is no evidence to indicate that it’s any different in this case.

Unfortunately, until there is an international standard for protection of privacy data, which is enforced effectively and has serious consequences when breaches occurs, then corporations will continue to collect big data and track consumers in order to be as much ‘on message’ as possible...

… maybe the Genie has already been let out of the bottle?

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