Please don’t sell my identity – a consumer’s view from a communications person

Admatic MD and managing partner Matthew crook
By Admatic MD and managing partner Matthew crook | 4 May 2018

Everyone in our industry seems to be talking about the use of customer data at the moment and rightly so. It is a somewhat murky and grey area that sits between legal requirements and ethical interpretation.

Often these two worlds don’t sit too well together. I spoke with my children and a few friends last week about the Facebook situation and to be honest the response was everything from ‘so what’ to ‘I didn’t know you can do this with my information but life goes on’ to ‘this is a serious concern but what could I honestly do’.

I wasn’t surprised as most people really have no granular understanding of what is happening and what is possible.

As a consumer I have absolutely no issue allowing my data to be utilised to provide me with a better experience in many digital environments.

Maybe over the years I have been trained that this simply the way of life. It is the trade-off between empowering brands with your information versus a better experience.

I think it is worth it. For the most part I am very comfortable with this for my banking requirements, travel, car servicing through to my general digital experience on Facebook, Google, Netflix, video services, news requirements to name just a few.

Largely my experience with each of my chosen brands is vastly enhanced and saves me time. All positive and I explicitly chose to allow my data to be used.

Why I am starting to feel awkward is based on a conversation I had with a senior agency group leader and I feel our ethical compasses are no longer aligned.

To summarize how my identity is being used at a practical level is certainly not surprising to me but really made me think about our agencies position on this subject.

The flow of my identity went something like this and I realise this is not shocking and new. Maybe we have all just become numb to the opportunity versus the responsibility of what we do.

I posted about this recently. Here we go.

I register on a travel newsletter (happy with my data with them), they sell this to a 3rd party data entity (don’t remember allowing this but apparently I did), this entity sells all of their data on an ongoing basis to the agency group (I certainly did not allow this), I sit in a PII (200 + data points about me) pool that is then used for their clients campaign targeting and matched to a media entity that knows me as well.

I have been passed through 5 sets of hands, had no ideas this happened but the positive news is I was told I am now an anonymised identity. I feel so much better.

My point is not about undermining an incredibly important step in our industry and is not about allowing me to receive better advertising.

This is the business we live and breathe every day. I quite simply don’t like that I become agency fodder based on an interest in travel.

Maybe they should pay me every time they activate my identity or match me to a cookie? Where is the treatment of explicit permission at each stage and who is responsible for this?

I have been historically guilty of speaking to the corporate lawyer to see if we can do something in this space. I now see the world a little differently.

We as agencies, people and clients need to start thinking about customer data as an ethical question that we control rather than a legal interpretation.

A shift to ‘should we do this’ rather than ‘can we do this’. I don’t know where this ends but maybe this is a good start.

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