Downside Of The Data Fast Lane - InformationWeek

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Downside Of The Data Fast Lane

Marketing data enables plenty of efficiencies for consumers. But convenience shouldn't blind us to the potential hazards.

9 Notorious Hackers Of 2013
9 Notorious Hackers Of 2013
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Marketers, technology platform engineers, and creative leaders are rewriting the rules of consumerism and technology by mining the wealth of information and analytical data arising from our online lives. This is happening at breakneck speed, thanks to the proliferation of intuitive, work-from-anywhere, cloud-accessible businesses and the omnipresence of mobile devices. Data mining technology enriches clients, partners, and even competitors by making business events measurable and by guiding business decisions with evidence rather than intuition.

The rush to gather data has become a condition of the science-fiction present we inhabit: It has made possible cars that park themselves, facial recognition software, drones meeting you on your porch with your Amazon purchases, and adaptive fulfillment technologies that intuitively guess what you're likely to buy so it's ready to ship before you even order it. It's an astounding reality powered by transactional and behavioral data.

One innovation I find particularly intriguing is location-based commerce. Imagine pulling your car into a gas station and never having to swipe a credit card. Imagine making a quick stop at the grocery store and walking out with a gallon of milk without ever seeing a cashier. Imagine technology that knows who you are the minute you walk through the door and devices that scan your purchases and send that data back to your bank so you are appropriately charged.

These are just a few of the luxuries and conveniences that location-based commerce makes possible.

[Facebook, Google, and other tech companies can now release more details about government demands for user data. Read Government Loosens Data Disclosure Gag.]

As an adaptive entrepreneur, I'm excited and intrigued by such changes, and I can't wait to jump on the bandwagon if a new technology serves my businesses.

As a consumer, I'm confused and constantly catching up to the technology just like everyone else. And when I finally learn it, there's something new and better on the market that I crave, and the process begins all over again.

As a promotional marketer, I think it's cool that I can trace my t-shirt from its billowy, white cotton infancy on a farm that offers online assurance of its fair wages. I then can follow that cotton to the mill that makes the fabric, which is sent to a factory that also abides by fair labor standards. In that factory, the fabric is sewn into garments, which are then shipped to a US distributor, where I can finally send it on to my decorator, who brands it and ships it to my client for distribution to end users. Meanwhile, my company has complied with International Labor Standards and safety concerns for my Fortune 500 clients -- and I've been able to observe it all from the comfort of my own chair because there was an RFID tag sewn into the garment.

As a mother, I'm fearful of the possibility of my preteen, wearing a different RFID-tagged t-shirt, could walk into an Apple Store and reveal everything there is to know about him through the tag in his shirt or the iBeacon on his phone. It scares me that I have no way to protect my son from all that data mining, except perhaps zapping his clothes in the microwave before he goes out and checking the privacy settings on his phone. I worry that this new technology could interfere with my child's fundamental right to privacy.

And what about the businesswoman driving conveniently past a toll booth with an EZ-Pass? It's saving time, but could that very convenience enable some crazed lunatic to collect information about her? The data we make available makes stalking too easy.

Maybe moviemakers have given us a fair glimpse into our futures, and maybe these conspiracy theories are the result of my overactive creative imagination. Regardless, one thing is for sure: Consumers don't have to accept data mining. If we don't do it carefully, the problems will overshadow the benefits, and everyone will lose.

Having a wealth of data is a good thing -- if you can make sense of it. Most companies are challenged with aggregating and analyzing the plethora of data being generated by their security applications and devices. This Dark Reading report, How Existing Security Data Can Help ID Potential Attacks, recommends how to effectively leverage security data in order to make informed decisions and spot areas of vulnerability. (Free registration required.)

Tonia Allen Gould is a wife, mother, author, marketing expert, and sought-after speaker. She is the Founder and CEO of marketing agency Tagsource and marketing startup BRANDHUDDLE. She is the author of the animated and musical picture book Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore ... View Full Bio

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