The biggest learning from the past year is that brands should treat users’ data with respect as it is the best business model that a brand can opt for. Let me explain how. Imagine you get this message the next time you open an app or log in to your favorite social media platform: “We are tracking everything that you are doing irrespective you use our app or not”. Will you be comfortable or will it send a chill down your spine? Guess we all know the answer.
We have heard that most social media platforms are extracting your personal data and to make the matter worse, they are storing all this data permanently. I believe that the real problem is the way this data is used. Analyzing such data to enable hyper-targeting segments with specific content is the real threat here. That is not ideal from the users’ perspective.
Looking at the recent media reports around data privacy, a leading social media platform not only misused user-data uploaded on the app but also, through buttons to express emotions and sentiments. Based on this information, they were able to profile a user. For instance, they could deduce if a user is a left-wing liberal or progressive technologist basis the publications, sites, and articles that the user liked. Further, on the basis of the user’s location, all the links he/she clicked and sites he/she accessed, the platforms could estimate the user’s income and spending power and suggest a certain brand to target that user. Just like a data-gobbling machine which spits out characteristics basis all that data, these characteristics are then used by brands to target a user base to sell their products and services.
Obviously, users were not delighted when they got to know about such abuse of their data. But you can’t help it as this is how several social media platforms, websites, and apps are running their businesses. They use micro-targeting to run hyper-targeted ads.
It is not a case that all these brands selling micro-targeted ads did not want to be transparent. They might have realized that it is not the right time to be confronted by the users. Not anymore. Users are keen to see more contextual content. This clearly reflects the fact that hyper-targeted ads are not going to work anymore. Thus, transparency takes the lead. It is imperative to act correctly and adapt to a new business model where we respect the user’s data basis transparency.
2019 will be the year to witness this transition. The transition from a phase where extracting or aggregating user data was the norm. Brands must use data like transactions or location to help in discovering something that is relevant for the user. Brands and social platforms should be transparent enough to inform users upfront about using their location or transaction details to surface something contextual.
This is the future we would like to live in. A world where data is sacred and respected by all. Social media platforms and brands must write new codes of ethically based on transparency where the user is aware of everything. The misuse of data and micro-targeting may not go away immediately. It will evolve. From hyper-targeted content to a more contextual setting where we leverage technology to discover new experiences and products.
The article is written by Nipun Bhatia, CTO, magicpin