Privacy – A Twist of Fate in Advertising

One of my favorite stories this year was in WSJ last month about research being performed by MIT using anonymous cell phone data to uncover hidden patterns in our social lives. For me the report offers a glimpse of things to come, probably sooner than we realize, of how personal and yet impersonal our life experience is becoming with the widespread use of mobile and interactive technologies.


Prediction Data

The data can predict with “uncanny accuracy” where people are likely to be at any given time in the future. It can reveal subtle symptoms of mental illness, foretell movements in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and chart the spread of political ideas as they move through a community much like a contagious virus.

Knowing that today’s technology already offers evidence that human behavior is mathematically predictable puts a lot of credibility into the idea of Intelligent Design. Mathematics is not random or accidental. It is like the fabric of our universe. It is natural, and it is what lies behind our computer technology.

In a way, technology is natural. It is made by man, and we are natural.

With technology now being such an integral part of our existence, the Nirvana for mankind may be lurking in technology. Could this have been the case for past civilizations such as the Aztecs and Ancient Egyptians?

Advertising and Privacy

While I do not attempt to define how free will, fate, and destiny work, I do believe in these things and that they are all unique from one another. As our location and social behavior patterns continue to be calculated, advertisers’ access to your personal information will be tapped.

Today we have systems that give us additional control over who sees what information from you and about you. Facebook is great for this. LinkedIn offers good options. Even our site offers abilities by allowing people to conduct business with companies and not make their personal contact information available until when they choose to.

Advertising has always fed on predicting what people will choose, which comes from both data and from intuition. What is changing is that now advertising has the most important data about you, which is where you are at any given moment and what is likely going to appeal to you at any given moment. In some cases, advertisers might even know you by name, phone, and/or email. But this is a whole other topic.

Twist of Fate

Or maybe advertising is what determines human social behavior. Maybe advertising is what the WSJ article calls an “influencer”, the people most likely to make others change their minds. Could it be that we are merely responders to our influencers which in this case would largely be media and advertising.

Anyhow, it’s an excellent article.  A wave of ambitious social-network experiments is underway in the U.S. and Europe to track our movements, probe our relationships and, ultimately, affect the individual choices we all make.

How does privacy and control of your information affect your buying experience?

Happy Rapture Day!

About the Author

Ryan Gerardi
Creative, resourceful, and resilient B2B sales and marketing technologist who works with people and businesses on a variety of levels to help elevate their game, their brand, and their businesses.
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