January 12, 2014

Monday Mailbag

Welcome to the third week of the "Monday Mailbag", featuring real and simulated questions from real and simulated readers. Email me (kevinh@minethatdata.com) with your questions.

Question #1 comes to us from "Anonymous":  We all sell merchandise, and we all care about merchandise. What do you want us to do, above and beyond what we're already doing, to care more about merchandise?
Question #2 is from Chris: Don't you think that people like you are ruining society? You track and measure everything that customers are doing. You are like the NSA, aren't you?
  • I've been through four stages of customer tracking.
  • Stage 1 = Catalogers rented names from competitors, and traded names with competitors.
  • Stage 2 = Catalogers gave customer data to co-ops, for free, then paid $0.06 a pop for re-assembled data.
  • Stage 3 = E-commerce terrified customers, so businesses kept information "private" and "secure", which caused measurement folks to use cookies to track customers anonymously, which caused measurement folks to not like anonymous behavior, which caused measurement folks to find clever ways to link name/address and email address to a cookie, so that all data could be tracked all the time while telling the customer that their behavior was "private" and "secure".
  • Stage 4 = Mobile. Want to download a chess game app? Congrats! The app wants to know where you are at all times - it wants to know your location. Why does a chess game need to know your location? Think about it. Mobile isn't mobile, mobile is data collection with context. The data is fed into a giant borg, where it is sliced and diced and re-sold. As I've mentioned previously, I met with the CEO of a mobile company - this individual told me that he didn't care about the product he was selling, he cared about the data generated by the product. Think about that sentence for a moment.
  • Stage 5 is coming - wearable devices and the "internet of things".
  • Ultimately, all of us are, in some way, like the NSA. We collect data about our friends (Facebook), we collect data about our favorite media companies (Twitter), and we use that data to monitor what our friends and our media outlets are doing. The path, from Stage 1 to State 4, is becoming more intrusive, and will continue to become more intrusive. Stage 9 looks really terrifying.