When news about the Heartbleed bug captured worldwide attention last month, consumers learned that their personal information, initially thought to be secure, had in fact been vulnerable to hackers for years. Arguably the worst Internet breach of all time, the revelation left many questioning what to do next.
To understand how consumer reaction to Heartbleed unfolded, we tuned into online chatter and engaged Forrester’s ConsumerVoices market research online community immediately after the news broke. While Forrester’s social listening data reveals that sentiment of consumer conversation about Heartbleed was consistently negative, online community response tells us that the negativity doesn’t stem purely from shock – rather, from a sense of helplessness and jadedness.
Campaign marketing is increasingly seen as background music and 'tuned out'. No surprise really that in a world where all brands push 'play' without consulting consumers that the outcome is a cacophony. It's one that consumers increasingly want to tune out, and today they have the tools to do so. From their cultivation of banner blindness , use of browser plugins like Adblock, through to enlisting more-aggressive privacy settings and skipping adverts at 8x speed. They simply don't want your message pushed at them and are taking steps to control the signal-to-noise ratio of useful vs. irrelevant data. Marketing must respond with a new quality in the relationship or risk being ignored.
The findings presented in an article by German magazine Computerwoche published on Feb 11, 2014, are a forceful reminder that messages about excessive data capture via mobile apps seem to have gone unheeded so far. As reported, tests by TÜV Trust IT established that “almost one in two mobile apps suck up data unnecessarily”.
What’s “unnecessary” of course depends on your viewpoint: it may seem unnecessary to me if my mobile email app captures my location; the provider of the app, on the other hand, could be capturing the information to provide me with a better service and/or to make money from selling such data to a third party. The trouble is that I don’t know, and I don’t have a choice if I want to use the app. From a consumer perspective, this is not a satisfactory situation; I’d even go as far as calling it unacceptable. Not that it matters what I feel; but privacy advocates and regulators are increasingly taking notice. Unless app providers take voluntary measures, they may see their data capture habits curtailed by regulation to a greater degree than would otherwise be the case.
Let’s step back a moment and consider why so many mobile apps capture more data than is strictly speaking necessary for the functioning of the app:
This morning, as I was writing this blog post, I got an email from one of my colleagues, saying "Is it weird that since Google bought Nest, I no longer want one?" Her sentiment isn't that unusual because, as it turns out, plenty of people feel like Google + Nest = HAL. (It's hard to miss the resemblance)
My colleague Frank Gillett just published a post outlining a collection of ten key thoughts about the acquisition. As the privacy-identity-personal data wonk advising Forrester's marketing strategy clients, I thought I'd drill down on some of the more salient points for those issues.
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.