By Demet Dayanch, staff writer of Seawave Media, www.seawavemedia.com
So, I just got sent a short video that is doing the rounds and has gone viral. It shows a Psychic who sets himself up in a tent, in a city in Europe and gets random punters to come in and he gives them a reading. The man is astonishing. Knows stuff unknowable. Bank details, amount a person spent on clothes in the past month, how many boyfriends they have, colour of their motorbike, best friend’s name etc. Right at the end it is revealed how he knows all this information/data. A screen drops down, and behind it we see four masked men at computer screens and a large screen with the punter’s data, pics etc…all from the internet. The message is: Your entire life is online and it might be used against you.
The guy was not a psychic he was being fed data from the guys behind the screen working rapidly and accessing all manner of information from online social media sites and the like.
Data – consumer data is a massive industry – has it gone too far where online consumer data is collected?
I mean all data in today’s world translates as consumer data. And why? Because we are living in a consumer world where money and goods really do make the world go round. I’d prefer for love to make the world go round, but then I am a techno hippie (Can’t technically be a hippie as I was born after that time).
What aides the collection of consumer data is a process called Data Mining. Data mining is a process where data is collected from a number of sources or from a variety of perspectives and analyzed to find relationships and correlations and patterns. Before data mining software came into play companies, especially those with a strong customer focus, like, retail, financial, marketing and communication companies, used other programmes to do this work by collecting consumer data and using the information, for particularly, point of sales records of customer purchases.
Once you have this kind of consumer data it is easy to market to the consumer other items/services that may be of interest to them? Data mining does go deeper than that, and with the extent of internet use for such a variety of purposes, a whole consumer personality can be determined through data mining.
Think about it. In the real world as opposed to the internet world (though to be honest most people spend more time in the internet world than the real world) if you know a person’s personality then you can know how to relate to them better. In a business world, you can identify their needs and mode of operatus and work in a way to get the best out of them. The same goes with data mining. It provides information/data that enables companies to target and market more directly goods and services that the consumer, through their accessed consumer data, is more likely to be interested in. This benefits companies as they are not wasting their time targeting and marketing consumers who are unlikely to use their products or services. So it could be argued that consumer data as well as benefiting companies also benefits consumers.
How does data mining benefit consumers?
If your consumer data is accessed and you are targeted and marketed a product that would interest you, then it is not really junk mail, as you are not being presented with items or services that are of no use to you. It may actually work in your favour and save you time from searching out these products and services. They literally come to you.
Is this true though? I know for sure on the internet all the pop up adverts annoy the hell out of me. So what if I researched a trip to India last week. It was for a friend, and I don’t want deals being sent to whatever other internet page I am in trying to sell me hotel deals in India. They don’t always get it right. My data cannot always be assumed to be consumer data and this is where I think there is beginning to be an overlay. For companies in the consumer industry (which is basically almost everything since even if it’s not about money it’s about energy and attention to ideas) it is no skin off their nose but a massive cut on mine.
But, then there are times that it can be useful. For example, when I’m having my 80’s music moment and doing a search on Youtube I’ll put in say (forgive me but it is a classic) Total Eclipse Of Your Heart, and sing my heart out. By the side of the clip are a number of other suggested tracks based on the choice I have already made. So I go from one song to another and another, and depending on my choice, get suggestions related to my last choice.
But you see, here I am not trying to be sold anything so that’s ok with me, it’s purely for my pleasure and benefit. There is no consumer data being stored up …or is there? You see, I have no idea if my Youtube searching activity then gets stored elsewhere. Is this music mania session going to become an avenue whereby it is converted as consumer data?
The next time I log on will I be hit with a pop up trying to sell me 80’s classic tunes? I just don’t know.
I guess what would be perfect would be to have a very clear and non hidden idea about how consumer data is collected, stored and utilised. I want to see figures. I would like to see who has this data on me. Is that too much to ask? Do I have a right to know about the sources of my own consumer data?