Sundeep Kapur for ClickZ just released a great article on the creepiness of tracking consumers.
You just checked into a hotel; they tracked your smartphone and watched you walk in from the parking lot. Your check-in folio was ready for you. That is awesome service. You proceed to your room. They now watch your every move; they know what you’re watching on TV, they know what you ordered from room service, and they know what sites you visited on the web. They know you because of your past stays, and now they are tracking your every move to try and personalize your experiences even more.
Is this creepy? Maybe! But I can tell you, its already starting to take shape.
This happens now on the web. Go to any retailer’s website and visit a few product pages, or add a few items to your shopping cart. Almost instantly as you travel around the net visiting other sites, you’ll start seeing banner ads and text ads championing the very products of the site you were just at. It’s called “retargeting” or “remarketing” and it works very well based upon the presence that you are likely to return to a site you previously visited. Advertisers know this works so well, they pay a premium for it. It’s a big business too – there are entire companies based upon behavioral targeting and retargeting.
Okay, so this is not quite as extreme as in Sundeep’s article.y However, the technology exists, more or less, to do everything he describes. It’s no big deal until this information is used to harm you. And that’s the very problem. How do you enable these services but protect consumers?
Remember that most technology and most inventions aren’t created to cause harm; they are simply exploited by others to do so, after the fact.