Personal privacy in the era of Conversational Services

Marketing via Chat

Chat will generate vast amounts of data on usage patterns, consumer behavior, likes and dislikes. After all this information is collected and analyzed, it could lead to significant improvements in marketing, advertising effectiveness and greatly improved return on marketing investment. However, chat data linked to marketing and sales directly threatens digital banner ads, Google AdWords and social media advertising platforms.

Lastly, it’s important to note that the global digital marketing market is predicted to be worth 1.1 trillion by 2020.

These smart, connected chat apps & bots will organizations to form new kinds of relationships with their customers and end users—relationships that require entirely new types of marketing practices and skill sets. As companies accumulate and analyze conversational & utterance data, they’ll gain new insights into how products are being accepted and used, they’ll create value for users, allowing better positioning of offerings and more effective communication of product value to users and partners. Using contemporary analytics tooling, firms can segment their markets in more sophisticated ways, tailor product and service bundles that deliver greater value to each segment and price those bundles to capture more of that value.

The concept of personal privacy

If conversation & chat can truly deliver on its promise to improve the everyday life of the individual users must acknowledge that a sacrifice of some personal privacy is to be expected. To benefit from the connected vehicle, one must be willing to share the machine data from usage, but also the conversations that take place within the car. In order for the connected home to truly work in harmony, some organization must have access to the details of how the home is lived in and how the conversational interfaces are utilized.

So let’s talk about privacy. What is it? When did it start? How has it changed over the years?

The concept of personal privacy and the right to control one’s own personal information is seen throughout the world as a fundamental right and incontrovertibly true—with little opportunity for debate.

Yet the contemporary notion of privacy emerged in the late 1600s in Britain, when the chimney was invented, allowing one-room houses built around a central fire to expand. Walls were crafted to form rooms that soon were built for purpose. Public rooms like a living room were for gatherings, while bedrooms and bathrooms were for more private, intimate happenings. The widespread concept of personal privacy can be traced to the emergence of personal living spaces.

The home is a place for privacy, which that seems normal; perhaps that’s why we cling to our right to privacy so tenaciously. We assume this has always been the case, yet that assumption is incorrect, and its relatively modern appearance is due entirely to technology.

Personal privacy took another leap forward when Kodak invented a cheap and mobile camera, allowing anyone with enough money to purchase one the ability to snap pictures anywhere. In the late 1800s, two lawyers published an article in the Harvard Law Review in response to being photographed in Boston’s gossip magazines. That article gave birth to the idea of privacy as a right, protected by law. Eventually, the courts—to protect the individual from the modern press—extended common law to protect privacy. “The right to be left alone” as we know it today is largely cemented in law.

The value of personal privacy

The irony is that each new chapter in the history of personal privacy is written in response to technological innovation, while it was technology itself that formed the initial concept. Technology created personal privacy; it helps protect personal privacy in some situations while threatening it in others. In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg was quoted as saying that privacy is no longer “a social norm.”

It is certainly in Mr. Zuckerberg’s interest to promote an anti-privacy social norm, yet this raises the topic to the level of public debate, which is important in my view. What do we sacrifice in our quest to preserve our own personal privacy? In our vigilant pursuit to keep our private information safe, we essentially transfer its value from ourselves as the owners to the individual or organization that’s most able to acquire it.

Perhaps we should reconsider the value of our privacy. Market research is a multibillion dollar industry, where groups of the population are studied to make predictions. Movies are tested, candidates conduct likeability polls and products are introduced to sample groups. But I’m very interested in ensuring the movie I watch is a movie I’ll enjoy; I want the makers of my household possessions to improve their product; and I’m compelled to make my tastes and preferences known if it results in organizations being more likely to match them with the products and services they offer.

By making our personal information private, we simultaneously make it scarce. Scarcity drives up price—so our private information is very pricey. Multibillion dollar companies exist because they can capture our personal data in exchange for a service, and the most successful companies in this business are the ones that exchange a service at a far-lower value than the data they’re able to extract in return.




We seem confused by the contemporary notion of privacy. We allow our emails to be scanned and used for marketing purposes, our search history is recorded and GPS data is collected, all to develop a deep behavioral understanding of the individual. Evidence of this confusion was shown in a survey by Lorrie Candor and Alecia McDonald. The survey’s results stated that only 11 percent of Americans would be willing to pay $1 per month to withhold their data from their favorite news site. Alternatively, 69 percent of Americans were not willing to accept a $1 discount on their Internet bills in exchange for allowing their data to be tracked. Basically, if people think a website is collecting their data, they aren’t willing to pay $1 to stop it. But if the same website isn’t collecting data, those same people are willing to pay $1 to stop it from happening. Fascinating!

This is a complicated issue, no doubt. I”m hoping stakeholders see the cost benefit for what it is and let the market evolve appropriately.


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