Two welcome bits of news
Two welcome bits of news this week from the UK.
First, BT has distanced itself from Phorm, the behavioural targeting advertising company that stalks individuals’ usage of internet sites to deliver more ‘relevant’ advertising to them.
In one sense, there is nothing wrong with the idea of building a profile of an individual’s web-surfing habits and using that information to serve up relevant information. Where Phorm went wrong was that it tried to do it behind individuals’ backs, without their knowledge or permission.
Now. Turn the Phorm proposition on its head, so that individuals use exactly the same technology to build up a profile of their own activities, and are then able to bundle bits of the profile into packages (‘this is the research I have done for my new holiday’, ‘this is the research I have for my new car’) and to selectively disclose this information to organisations they want to do business with and trust.
Hey presto! All of Phorm’s privacy invasion issues disappear as the technology becomes a tool of consumer empowerment. And advertisers actually get much better value from it!
When, oh when, will marketers and advertisers see that their current adversarial, targeting mindset is precisely why their initiatives are so inefficient, ineffective and (as with Phorm) counterproductive?
The second bit of news is the Tories’ announcement that they might turn to companies like Google or Microsoft to help build personal health records, as opposed to the current approach of centralised NHS (i.e. organisation-centric) medical records that has been a dismal failure and cost the citizens of this country £18bn so far.
As the Tories are likely to be the next government, this is significant, which is why The Times carried a lead front page story on it. Unfortunately, The Times got the wrong end of the stick (they are still working to an old and out of date political agenda). The issue is not who holds the data – state organisations or private sector organisations – but who controls the data: individual or organisation.
The Tories have woken up to what Phorm hasn’t – The Times reports a Tory spokesman talking about the need for people to ‘own’ their own data. Is Google or Microsoft the right organisation to facilitate this? Not in my view, but then I’m biased because of my involvement with Mydex whose mission in life is to help individuals do exactly that.
But the key point is this. It’s now becoming clear that the issue of helping individuals ‘own’ and manage their own information is moving rapidly from the ‘far out’ fringe to the mainstream.
About time too!