The Dark-Side of Social Media and Technology

Mitch Talenfeld

Mitch Talenfeld – CEO

Having been involved in marketing and advertising for the better part of my adult life, I have long dreamed of a day when technology would advance to a point where we could utilize people’s permission-based information to truly communicate with them on an individual basis. In a previous article, I discussed the importance of personalized information and how critical it is in a multi-channel direct mail campaign. Data enables us to narrow our scope and target marketing messages to only those most likely to be interested in our products and services. However, the misuse of personal data and technology creates nightmares for those who are targeted by dishonest people.

There are firms, such as Cambridge Analytica, that do not share our values and use data to significantly harm the public. I just watched the Netflix documentary The Great Hack, which exposes the “dark side of social media in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election”. The film discloses how marketers have utilized permission-based data, data science, and sometimes illegally obtained personal information to sway #elections in unimaginable ways.

We all know our personal data is being collected. We know this because every time we download an App onto our computers and mobile devices, we give businesses our permission to use our personal information to help us get the most out of the service the App is performing on our behalf. And if you are like me, we no longer bother to read the documents and permissions we are agreeing to when we click okay to download or update these Apps. What most of us don’t realize is the actual extent of the permission we have given businesses when we click the okay-button. The massive amounts of data about our lives and the extent to which it is being used is often over-looked or brushed off by us for the promise of efficiency and ease of use with revolutionary technology.

So, consider this. You have given permission for your fitness watch and other such devices to measure your body functions and activities; measuring data such as your pulse-rate, how often you exercise and how well you sleep. You have also given companies permission to collect data for your smoke detectors and other home security devices to work, so they alert you if there is a fire, track movement around your home, and notify you when someone enters your house. Your cable company and entertainment networks have your permission to track the programs and videos you watch and the games you are playing. Apps on your mobile phone track who you call, what you do during the day, where you go and so much more. Newer cars have even become more sophisticated and give auto companies the ability to track how you drive and collect other data-points about you.

Are you worried yet?

If what I have mentioned doesn’t bother you, spend a moment thinking about your social media usage, your Internet searches, your email and text communications; and what you discuss with your Alexa or Google digital assistants. Once you let this soak in, consider the fact that data scientists are collecting and utilizing your personal information from multiple databases and manipulating it in ways that let them know everything about you. The scariest part is people from around the world are learning about our most private thoughts and actions; resulting in strangers knowing more about us than our closest friends and relatives!

So, my life-long dream of utilizing personal data in marketing for positive purposes is being overshadowed by unethical people, companies, and governments misusing our data. As a result, even though I am dead-set against big government, I have personally concluded that this is a national problem that we cannot handle on our own. This issue of data privacy requires that our congressional leaders intervene and create smart laws that do not restrict the positive and productive use of innovation but yet protect us against the nefarious use of our data.

Let’s start a conversation.

What do you think? Do you feel like I do, that we need new legislation to protect our privacy? And if so, how do we create laws that limit the usage of our personal data by companies that have Apps on our computers and mobile devices, without stifling business innovation?