Looking at the Marketplace section of the September 24, 2014 issue of the Wall Street Journal two articles captured my attention. The leading article “Websites Wary of Facebook Tracking” and right underneath it ” Apple’s Latest Marketing Pitch: More Privacy“.
Marketers love data. They use it to target and segment potential customer and prospects. Data rich with specifics of a customer’s past buying habits, the web sites that they visit even when they are not on social media gives marketers new insight into who is and might be purchasing their products and who they should appeal to. Three months ago, Facebook began to build much more detailed user profiles with exactly that sort of data. How can they do it? Is that legal? Sounds like an invasion of privacy.
When you sign up to use Facebook that sort of data collection is part of the fine print that you agree to. Google does something similar, but they don’t know as much personal information as Facebook, such as your real name, photos, friends… you get the idea. Facebook, Google and Apple all sell adverting, but with key differences. Apple doesn’t monetize your browsing information on your Apple devices, read your email, or mine your ICloud account. It seems that Apple has found a sweet spot with consumers – they are selling privacy. Apple will sell data based on age, gender, home address, ITunes and App purchases but that is it. Apple also lets you opt out, Google and Facebook don’t. Apple is being strategic in its decisions. Apple’s I Ad group will allow ads on ITunes radio (a free service to the consumer) that doesn’t strike me as that different from watching cable TV and seeing a 30- or 60-second ad.
Privacy is protected not by the American Constitution, but by the Bill of Rights; no less than the first, third, fourth, fifth and ninth amendments. It has been broadly interpreted to encompass many more rights than expressly stated over the years. It will be interesting to see if Facebook finds itself fighting a backlash from users on the same scope as it is with publishers who are deleting its pixel tags from their sites and opting out of Facebook. As these sweeping changes that Facebook is incorporating into its data collection policies become better publicized perhaps it will begin to lose its luster with users. Tim Cook at Apple is certainly publicizing Apple’s more respectful treatment of its customers. Does the American public care if their personal details are monetized? It will be interesting to watch in the next few months.