From Convenience to Compromise: The Price of Personal Information in the Digital Era

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 20 February 2024 00:00

Have you experienced receiving a phone call from an unfamiliar number? Nowadays, it may seem like a rhetorical question because most of us have encountered such situations. The prevalence of spam calls on our mobile devices has made it a common occurrence.

Personally, I receive these phone calls at least every few days. I often wonder about their origin and how on Earth they got my number.

How about when you scroll through social media or a website, and you come across an ad for something you checked out a few days ago. It’s an item you’re genuinely interested in, but you can’t help but wonder how or why the ad is being served to you.

This instance, along with the strange capability of Google and other software being able to read your mind by showing you ads for things you searched for momentarily weeks prior, are all in the same category. We are all familiar with the reality that organizations that we connect with in some capacity for online shopping, article reading, or more leverage a good portion of our personal information to their advantage and, in essence, to ours.

And while some may find this type of personalized advertising helpful, others find it incredibly invasive. It all goes back to privacy, but now the questions that remain are: What is privacy in today’s digitally connected world, and from a business leader’s perspective, how do we navigate this with integrity?

Our Lives and Data Get More Digital Every Day

Since the dawn of public access to the internet, we have heard that any information shared on the internet is public domain, almost as if you surrendered your autonomy to the World Wide Web. Of course, this is still true today; however, the difference between today and yesterday is that today, customers are demanding their personal data stay private while simultaneously expecting more personalized content that fits their unique preferences. What a dichotomy!

I teach organizations around the world the principles of my Anticipatory Organization® Model, where they can become positive disruptors in a world that is constantly evolving with exponential digital advancements. With the decades of research I have conducted, I continue to encourage my clients and colleagues to pay close attention to the Three Digital Accelerators that propel powerful technology into the future: computing and processing power, bandwidth, and storage.

While my Three Digital Accelerators increase organizational operation efficiency, they affect our personal lives and the information we share online as well. For instance, in today’s digital landscape, those accelerators have made it possible for us to sign up for popular subscription services that make our lives the pinnacle of convenience. These include brand name subscription services like Uber Eats and Amazon Prime and extend to include grocery delivery, music, and even your traditional email subscriptions for travel deals.

Essentially, everything we could possibly want is online at our convenience, but convenience comes with the price of our personal information.

As the Three Digital Accelerators constantly lead us into the next great digital evolution, our lives will continue to become more digitized than ever. Similarly, as we continue to sign up for more and more services, shop online in any capacity, and generally use smart devices to simplify our lives, we will continue to use our name, phone number, email, and other sensitive information while agreeing to terms and conditions without many of us actually reading the fine print.

Thus, our personal data will continue to permeate the digital world and become data that others can access and leverage.

Privacy in Digital Marketing: Is There a Line?

From the perspective of a business leader, do you feel that once an individual customer enters their data online, is it no longer their personal information?

Throughout centuries, the essence of successful business has revolved around comprehending the needs and desires of customers, then offering them the appropriate solutions. Today, the essence of business remains the same, but the vast number of organizations offering similar products and services makes the process more difficult. Enter: Marketing.

We all know, based on the previous discussion of targeted ads and autonomous sales calls, the activity of promoting and selling products or services according to research on customer expectations and needs is just as digital as how individuals buy those products and services. Add in artificially intelligent marketing tools like geofencing, where your mobile device becomes part of a system that suggests products or services near you, suddenly that line between what is personal and what is public domain gets very blurry. 

In a highly digitized era where the internet is for sales, marketing, and more, it takes no effort for marketing professionals to have access to customer information, and in many cases, it is completely legal. But as specific ads are tailored to customers by leveraging their data, the responsibility of equitable marketing practice now falls on you, the business leader.

This line is drawn by you.

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Daniel Burrus

Daniel Burrus is considered one of the World’s Leading Futurists on Global Trends and Disruptive Innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus.

He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities.

He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, using his Anticipatory Business Model to develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. He has delivered over 3,000 keynote speeches worldwide. 

He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller Flash Foresight, and his latest best selling book The Anticipatory Organization, and he is a syndicated writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of technology driven trends, disruptive innovation, and exponential change. 

Burrus is an innovative entrepreneur who has founded six businesses, four of which were U.S. national leaders in the first year.   His accurate predictions date back to the early 1980s where he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty exponential technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic growth for decades to come. Since then, he has continued to establish a worldwide reputation for his exceptional record of predicting the future of technology driven change and its direct impact on the business world.

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