The Fact Your #Data is Being Used Should Be a Surprise to No-one

It’s been an interesting weekend for my field of work. Especially in an industry where I do stuff with data….

Ellie Mae O’Hagen wrote a piece called “No one can pretend Facebook is harmless fun anymore” and it’s not a bad overview of where things are. The last line says it all:

“…because people with Facebook profiles aren’t the company’s customers: they are the product it sells to advertisers.”

Which is basically the worst kept secret in technology companies, entrepreneurs and tech “thought leaders”. The value is in the data and once you figure out how to monetise that then a free product to customers is no bad thing.

Anyone who knows me knows my love of customer loyalty data, I’ve worked with it since 2002, mined Nectar card data and came up with recommendations via vouchers and offers on how to get customers to change behavior. The Cambridge Analytica approach is far from new it’s just the domain it was applied to.

Once you know you can change another persons behavior there comes a sense of responsibility with it. As the custodians of the data you now have the power the change the course of another person’s future without their knowledge. That thought alone is scary as I know some that would exploit it for profit like squeezing a grape until no more juice would come out.

So think about it all, every card, whether it’s loyalty cards, bank cards, your medical records on the GP’s system. Do the likes of Tesco/Dunn Humby have a public list of where their Clubcard data is sold? Probably not.  I asked a question during a Big Data Week panel in 2015, “Who has a Clubcard?”, pretty much all the room, “Who wouldn’t mind if your shopping habits were passed on to the insurance company?”, all hands with the exception of two went down very quick.

Telephone call logs are another and the classic line, “we may record your call for training purposes”, training what exactly? Another customer representative or an machine learning or AI tool to decide whether to keep your custom. How do we know, well we never do because we never find out.

Will the events of the weekend turn the tide against Facebook, it’s 50/50. I mean 50m users of Facebook is only about 2.5% of the user base and most hardened cat/dog/baby picture posting users won’t care. If I were to bet, I’d said probably nothing much will happen.

The only people who need to change are you and me, about what data goes were, how it will be used and how to have it deleted when we’re done with that service.


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