Personalization Versus Privacy: Making Sense of the Privacy Paradox

Personalization Versus Privacy: Making Sense of the Privacy Paradox

Whilst on one hand we’re more informed than ever about how marketers may be controlling our personal data, and are more cautious about protecting it. Welcome to the Privacy Paradox, a term coined to describe the way in which consumers today are torn between their desire for personalized content and their natural instinct to protect their personal information. Are we signing our lives away? Whilst the media are always quick to name and shame companies for their questionable use of personal data, consumers have to take a certain level of responsibility for how these companies managed to get their hands on this information in the first place. In a recent experiment run by two communications professors, a fictitious social media platform was created and people were asked to read the terms and conditions before registering. When we put the concept into a real-life situation, it’s easy to see why many consumers now feel that businesses are crossing the line when it comes to taking advantage of their personal data. The Consumer Perspective Consumers and businesses are not always on the same page when it comes to the use of personalized content in advertising, as illustrated by CEB’s research below: (Source) The fact that almost half of consumers were ‘creeped out’ by the way in which online ads had used their details suggests that they weren’t aware marketers had access to this information. One reason for this is that many consumers don’t truly appreciate what the term ‘personal data’ encompasses and what scraps of information marketers are pulling together to create customized content. So companies could be picking up personal information you are sharing through messenger conversations, emails and websites simply through your use of their free public hotspot. Less is more, and if consumers feel like a company knows too much about them, they probably do.

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With so much competition online, personalized content and appealing to the individual consumer is a key way for businesses to break through the noise.

As customers, we want businesses to know what we want and tailor the content we see accordingly, but when companies appear to have too many insights into our personal affairs it sets alarm bells ringing — and quite frankly freaks us out — making us less likely to engage with the company again for fear of spilling more proverbial beans on our private information.

Whilst on one hand we’re more informed than ever about how marketers may be controlling our personal data, and are more cautious about protecting it. On the other hand, we are still sharing personal information freely online on a daily basis and liberally ticking boxes to agree with pages and pages of terms and conditions that most of the time we haven’t even read …

Welcome to the Privacy Paradox, a term coined to describe the way in which consumers today are torn between their desire for personalized content and their natural instinct to protect their personal information.

Are we signing our lives away?

Whilst the media are always quick to name and shame companies for their questionable use of personal data, consumers have to take a certain level of responsibility for how these companies managed to get their hands on this information in the first place.

In a recent experiment run by two communications professors, a fictitious social media platform was created and people were asked to read the terms and conditions before registering. Only 25% looked at the terms and conditions and 98% of respondents (that includes most of the 25% that claimed to have read through the legislation) signed consent without even noticing that paragraph 2.3.1 of the contract required them to surrender their first-born child to the organization as payment for the free service.

I think it’s safe to assume that this is not a hidden clause we have to be on the lookout for any time soon, however, it does demonstrate how many consumers are likely to be somewhat accountable for personal data leakage simply through disregard for terms and conditions and agreeing to contracts before they know what the relationship entails.

Why are we so generous with what we share?

The question of why we are so forthcoming with our personal information could generate enough discussion for an entire thesis, but ultimately it all boils down to three main factors:

1. We now live in a culture focused on documenting our lives rather than just living them.

When something exciting happens to us, before we even stop to truly enjoy it ourselves we’ve posted it on every social platform we can to make sure the world knows how much fun we’re having. The convenience of having instant access to what’s going on in the world, being able to share stories with all of our friends simultaneously and the ego-trip of seeing ‘likes,’ ‘loves’ and ‘tears of laughter’ when we do share distracts consumers from considering what prying corporate eyes may also be taking note of their activity.

2. Our right to privacy is invisible, inaudible and intangible.

Therefore, when we give it away, we don’t feel like we’re really parting with anything, much like putting those expensive shoes on our credit card and being stung by the interest later.

3. It makes for an easy life….

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