I recently attended a marketing conference that discussed emerging technology trends. When the panel was asked what was the single-word topic of 2010 they almost all said, “mobile”. I didn’t think of it at the time but I’d argue that the word of the year is “privacy”. That thought, coupled with a current email-based discussion I’m having with a luddite friend (he’s not on Facebook or LinkedIn), got me thinking about some of the privacy issues that we — as a global population of netizens — will face in 2011 and beyond.
Concern about privacy is hardly a new topic. Back in 1999 Scott McNealy, then the CEO of Sun Microsystems notoriously said, “you have zero privacy. Get over it.” I love the brevity, Scott, but that is not going to get you on a Hallmark card anytime soon. Yes, the web brought on a change in the level of privacy that users may expect, but the role of marketing has always been to predict the intent of potential customers by tracking user behavior. Computers and the internet, however, have yielded a seismic shift in the cost, speed, availability and sheer amount of data – perhaps changing at a rate faster than humans can conceptually deal with, and thus creating debates about how to strike a balance in this brave new world.
In 2010, however, we’ve seen more information about the reconciliation of online and offline data. From cars, to finances, to the recent announcements about the TSA’s new full-body scanners, it’s no longer just our web browsing history that’s available to evil marketers like myself. Here’s a quick rundown of a few privacy issues, how they can be exploited, and what you should know about protecting yourself: