Customer Intelligence, Privacy, and the "Creepy Factor" | HBR

interesting perspective from larry downes on the HBR blog today about the ongoing controversy about what the internet knows about us and to what uses it puts that information. downes makes the valid point that the biggest players are too big to care about your naughty pictures or marital infidelity - you count only as another data point to feed the great ad rate setter in the cloud. 

my take: at the intersection of anonymity and personalization, you will find me with a 5 gallon tub of ny super fudge chunk. but while they might not care, I care who else they show it to in some paid attempt to get that person to buy it...

Right now, my Facebook page is showing me photos of three people "you may know." I know all three. For two, the connection is obvious. For the third, the connection is eerily indirect. Until I understood what mundane data elements connected all three to me, I felt uneasy about Facebook. The company seemed to be an actual person, and a creepy one at that.

As we record more information in digital form in hopes of sharing it with our intimate contacts and less enthusiastically with advertisers who pay for the services we love, it's inevitable that more of these visceral responses will occur. When specific data is used in novel ways, the initial response is often the creepy factor.

The creepy factor, however, is the response to a novel use of information to provide a seemingly personalized response. Over time, the creepiness decreases. Most of us are now accustomed to customized Google search results, specific Gmail ads, and prescient Facebook recommendations. They no longer make our skin crawl.

In response to innovation in customer intelligence, however, privacy advocates are calling for all sorts of new laws to protect us from ourselves. In reality, what they want most is a placebo to cure the creepy factor.

via (click through to read the whole thing, including spooky references to invisible market forces)

image: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Tobias Leeger