Rumors Of Privacy’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

As 2013 comes to a close, it's clear to me that much of the rhetoric about privacy's death was not only premature but downright wrong. Just in this past week, there have been several events that point to how very alive and critically important the topic of privacy is:

  • The US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation released a report (in advance of a  public hearing) about the practices of the data brokerage industry, and how they impact consumers. The report claims that "data brokers operate behind a veil of secrecy, subject to limited statutory consumer protections." This certainly portends the possibility of new legislation being introduced by the committee in 2014.
  • US District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled that the bulk collection of millions of Americans' call records likely violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. While conflating surveillance with marketing privacy is a dangerous thing, I suspect that this ruling will draw further attention to the volume, scale, and methods of data collection, irrespective of who's doing the collecting.
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The Measurement Curmudgeon — Part 1: Detection

Perhaps you’ve heard him in meetings — he is the one questioning your results. Perhaps you’ve seen him at his desk surrounded by tombs and tables in an effort to lower incremental sales calculations — he calls it reducing bias. Perhaps you’ve hoped he will not be assigned to your project — he delivers lower lift estimates than his peers. He is the measurement curmudgeon.

How do you detect if a measurement curmudgeon resides in your office? Listen for the following clues/questions:

  • Is that control group really comparable to the experimental group? Isn’t it biased toward less engaged customers and inflating your measured lift?
  • Wasn’t that concurrent with our fall promotion? Isn’t that event likely accounting for most of your positive results?
  • Haven’t sales been trending up? Did you incorporate that trend into your analysis?
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