Listened to an interesting discussion last night at the Monaco Media Forum, featuring Alain Lévy, CEO of Weborama (France). Especially interesting since we tend to be too US-centric when discussing privacy issues and how data should be utilized.

A few thoughts that were discussed:

  • Alain Lévy brought up the idea of “the right to be forgotten”, a new principle for the Social Web to be able to eliminate embarrassing or questionable content associated with us. ( The 5am picture).
  • A few people brought up the idea that we need to develop a fair contract between advertisers and people, just like the implied TV contract (You enjoy this show for free and watch commercials in return).
  • Some regard the current targeting techniques as “sneaky” and not a sustainable strategy.

While I think the idea of “the right to be forgotten” is interesting, I believe it would be too complicated, too complex and implies a flawless execution. (Good luck.) As much as I was delighted to see that all of us in the media/marketing world continue to discuss privacy and control issues, I was still surprised that nobody brought up the idea that users should own their own data. And I’m starting to have the feeling, any further discussions of privacy doesn’t change the core issue.

As I wrote before, sharing your data on your own terms, having complete control of your personal data would eliminate all the demands for regulations and new rules.It seems we’re making things more complicated than they should be. The “deal” that marketers always bring up when talking about targeting, is not a deal. Nobody ever negotiated with people, we just started to assume that people are okay with it. The majority of people don’t care about targeting, even worse for brands: they don’t care about advertising because we still try to play a guessing game. All the data we collect is distilled into assumptions of people. The assumption somebody else has of my identity is not the real me. We collect more data points about a person than any data aggregation technology when we talk to them for 1 minute. Would you base your marketing spend on that one minute?

The waste in advertising dollars on false assumptions will lead to a real contract. People will share their data and intentions with brands, leading to a much more efficient and effective marketplace. We can talk about privacy, regulations and laws all day long. It won’t change the structure of our business. A mind-blowing ROI will.